A charter is essentially the same as a franchise and the 36 that exist are guaranteed a spot in a 40-car field each week and a substantial piece of money NASCAR contractually owes its participants. Two charters fell off the board this month when Kaulig Racing bought a pair from Spire Motorsports, a team that bought and stocked less when potential owners had little interest in NASCAR.
Interest has grown with NASCAR launching a new, cost-friendly car next season. This season saw three new teams enter the Cup Series, and the pending move from Kollig from Xfinity to the Cup saw the price of Charters skyrocket.
“I heard 10 million dollars, is that what you heard?” Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner of JRM, told the Associated Press. “I’m not paying for it.”
How much Matt Kaulig paid to Spire is secured in a non-disclosure agreement, but the day after the sale was abuzz with the racing industry amid speculation that the current price for charters starts at seven figures.
In 2019 Spire told The Associated Press that it had paid $6 million a year earlier for its first charter, which was purchased from championship-winning Furniture Row Racing. At the time of purchase it was one of the most valuable charters in the sport because NASCAR’s payment structure provides a high percentage of funding to the top performing teams.
Owners of some smaller teams cashed out last year and some think they got something like $6 million. Of course, some predicted that the market would explode with the next generation car in 2022.
“You have to pay to play, that’s just the way the system works. In the NFL, you have to buy a franchise,” said Matt Kaulig, who in six years at NASCAR built a competitive Xfinity Series team that is now in the big leagues. Will go
But why would Kaulig, the founder of Leaffilter and Leaf Home Safety Solutions’ parent company, agree to pay so much?
“Because he wanted them now,” said Earnhardt. “I don’t have a business, I don’t have the foundation to be able to take steps like that. We’re a race team that works on its own so we have to be a little smarter.”
Trackhouse Racing finds itself in the same position as it looks forward to its second season of Cup competition. Team owner Justin Marks said he had lost three Charters last year; He eventually leased a charter from Spire to guarantee that Daniel Suarez could race every week.
The rules of the system prevent Marx from leasing the same charter for two consecutive seasons, so he is scouring the market to buy. Marx made it clear that he would not pay much for the charter.
Spire co-owners Jeff Dickerson and TJ Puchir both said that Marks knew they were taking the offer and moved on without him. Spire plans to land a full-time cup car next season for Cory Lajoie with the remainder of his charter, but also said the team is back on the market and looking to acquire others.
“Look, they’re running a business. That’s how they need to run it,” Marx said. “Charter travel has been that. It’s been a journey. It’s an interesting time in the history of the sport with this charter economy.”
Marks is part of a crowded field of potential buyers. Denny Hamlin launched 23XI Racing this season with Michael Jordan and did not pay $6 million to charter Spire two years ago. Now the team is looking to expand to another car and Hamlin is not sure if he will add another team to the 23XI without a charter.
He’s also not convinced that the market was set at more than $10 million by Kaulig.
“If that’s the case, we made one hell of an investment last year,” Hamlin said. “we will see.”
For teams that do not have a charter, there are four “open” spots on the field each week. The risk is that an open team won’t race—Suarez drives for a team that didn’t have a charter in 2020 and misses the Daytona 500—and won’t get the NASCAR money guarantee.
Marx has done the math and statistics can go on without a trackhouse charter. With the next-gen coming, Marx predicts that not enough cars will be built for Daytona in February to show the more than 40 entries. Marx also stated that the return on investment for the charter would not cover the purchase price. Hamlin agreed.
“The model still requires you to put significant sponsor dollars on the car if you want to compete,” Hamlin said. “If you just want to hang around, it’s a different business model. If you want to compete, you still need to get eight-figure plus, plus sponsor money, to compete with people who have There are businesses that can put their thumb on you at any time.
Hamlin said he was in no hurry to spend.
“There are many people who have a panic button, but their hand is very close to mine,” he said.
JTG Dougherty Racing owns two cars but only one charter and yet open car driver Ryan Preece has not missed a race this season and earned a spot in the Daytona 500. Preece is a free agent at the end of the season and is not concerned about charters.
“My job as a driver is to go out and do my job,” Preece said. “What you’re expected to do as a driver is win races or maximize. That’s what I can do.”
Notes: NASCAR may withdraw a charter from Rick Ware Racing, as the series is allowed to do so if a team is one of the three worst charter teams in owner points for three consecutive years. Rick Ware owns three charters outright and Number 51 Charter is owned by Richard Petty Motorsports but is retained as the fourth RWR car.
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