Questions persist on when NASCAR charter program for teams will begin

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AVONDALE, Ariz.  – As the Sprint Cup season nears an end, some team executives privately are questioning if NASCAR’s charter program to provide organizations with long-term equity will begin next year as intended.

One source who was heavily involved in the negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly about them told NASCAR Talk that a “deal isn’t imminent.’’ Another source told NASCAR Talk that plans remain to have the charter program in place before next season begins. The deal was likened to the glacial pace that it took NASCAR to release the 2016 schedule last month because of new five-year sanctioning agreements with each track. The Sprint Cup schedule was released two months later than a year ago.

The charter program is important for teams because it provides value for them. Now, if a team loses sponsorship or financial backing, it faces the prospect of going out of business because a lack of tangible assets precludes the appeal of selling to another investor. Michael Waltrip Racing, which is losing its financial backing with Rob Kauffman purchasing an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing, will cease operations after this season.

Team owner Richard Petty said such an equity program is needed.

“You’ve got to figure we’ve been here in racing since 1949 and we’ve got no equity in the game, we’re just here,’’ he said. “If we go away, we just go away. We’ve got nothing to back up that 65 years of being in NASCAR, and I think that’s what the owners now are looking at. ‘Hey, we’ve been putting money in this thing and when we go away, we don’t have anything to take home with us.’ That’s what they’re really looking at.”

Asked how confident he was that NASCAR’s charter program will be in place for next season, Petty said: “The one deal that NASCAR has, they have slowed down, and we’re talking to them and they’re listening. Will they do anything or not? We’ll just have to wait and see, but there have been a couple of pretty interesting suggestions the (Race Team Alliance) has made, so it’s going to be a long, drawn out deal.

“We’re not going to get everything we want, and they’re not going to get everything they want, but if we can get a start, then I think the RTA can really help NASCAR, and I think NASCAR can help the RTA. It’s a combination. We can’t hurt each other. If we do, we’re killing each other.”

NASCAR announced Sept. 29 that it presented teams with “framework concepts for future qualification to compete in NASCAR’s top national series with an eye toward implementing a new model for the 2016 season.”

Brett Jewkes, NASCAR senior vice president said in September that “a lot of work” remained and that “we understand there will be speculation and rumors related to the concepts outlined today, but would caution conclusions as we work toward final decisions.’’

Nate Ryan contributed to this report