In an incredible departure from the business model that NASCAR and its participating race teams have used for over half a century, the sanctioning body has agreed to charter 36 franchised teams to compete full time on the Sprint Cup series level. While franchises at every level of American professional sports are the norm, this Charter System introduced by NASCAR and racing team ownership is designed to ensure the continued long term viability of the sport and those who commit to compete fully at its highest level. By promising team owners a larger financial stake in earnings derived from payouts at participating tracks, NASCAR insures that teams are able to remain fiscally viable and able to sustain their operations year to year. While not all of the details of the agreement have been provided, significant aspects of the arrangement are already impacting the racing community.
While fans will see little difference in the on track activity of the sport they love, in the long term the quality of the competition is likely to improve. With team owners having a secure monetary base to work from they will be able to better invest in future technologies. One portion of the new deal cuts the number of available qualifying spots from 43 to 40 for all 2016 Sprint Cup events.
The Race Teams
If you are one of the 36 “Charter” teams, you’re golden. Franchises were awarded to those teams who competed on a weekly basis over the past couple of years, franchises can be sold or leased with prior approval from NASCAR. The only “iconic” race team left out of the initial chartering was the Wood Brothers. Having competed only part-time for the last few years left the Woods without a guaranteed franchise
position in the sport; as a result, they will have to qualify each week for one of the four remaining spots in the downsized field of cars. Ironically the small independent teams that were once the staple of the sport are left outside looking in. Certainly competition for those four open spots on the grid will drive competition of the back-markers to a higher level and virtually eliminate the notion of start and park racing efforts.
While giving a larger portion of the income derived from the efforts of the racing teams back to the teams themselves is not something past generations of the France family would have likely considered, current NASCAR President Brian France has seemed to recognize the need to shore up the sustainability of the true stars of the sport. By partnering with team owners in this manner the sanction body still retains control over all major aspects of the sport while giving the teams an ownership stake that translates into more security for investor and sponsors. Richard Petty summed it up best: “They (NASCAR) have been doing their thing, we’ve (team owners) have been doing our thing, meeting in the middle a little bit. We’re getting rid of that, we’re all going to be in the middle of the deal… Now we’re going to be in the same room, talking about the same problems, and solving the problems together. From that standpoint, it’s going to be the greatest things that’s ever happened to NASCAR and Cup Racing.”
It remains to be seen how these changes effect the sport this year and into the future. One thing is for sure NASCAR has never been shy about adjusting the rules on the fly while the race teams adapted. No doubt modifications can be expected moving forward.