NASCAR ends tradition of providing race winnings

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ending a practice of more than six decades, NASCAR has stopped disclosing winnings in Sprint Cup box scores because of its new charter system, whose financial details are emerging.

NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar told NBC Sports the decision was made to stop disseminating total purse and individual winnings for each race because “it’s not contemporary” under the new system announced Tuesday that guarantees revenue and race attendance for 36 teams with  charters. Another four “open” cars – which don’t have charters that guarantee making the race – could round out each field for a maximum of 40 cars.

“It’s a new foundation and a new era,” Dewar said. “We’ve changed a lot of things from that old model to this model. That’s one of the things that was from a different time and place.”

The move, which began with Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited, essentially ends career winnings as a calculable and comparable statistic. For example, Jeff Gordon was listed as winning a record $153,703,667 over 20 seasons in the No. 24 Chevrolet. His replacement, Chase Elliott, won’t have a publicly released career winnings total for his starts in the No. 24 Chevrolet.

NASCAR has supplied race winnings virtually since its 1948 inception (Jim Roper is credited with earning $2,000 for winning the inaugural Strictly Stock race at Charlotte Speedway) and also listed each race’s total purse on entry blanks and box scores.

The 2016 Daytona 500 entry blank didn’t contain a total purse or a breakdown of payouts by position. Those standard elements remain on the entry blanks for the truck and Xfinity series – both of which still have a race purse that includes money based on myriad contingency plans and finishing order.

Under the new system, NASCAR has set aside guaranteed revenues for chartered teams based on entering each race and on their performance over the past three seasons. They also will compete for a points fund with more cash.

The fourth and final source of income for chartered teams is what traditionally has been called “the purse,” but in this case, it’s dependent solely on finishing position — carved out from the previous contingency plans that rewarded the most competitive teams.

The chartered and open teams compete for the same pool of money in what is known as the “variable” purse that is based on results (in addition to the “fixed” purse that offers guaranteed money in much larger amounts for the charter teams).

Dewar said it didn’t make sense to provide winnings that are listed according to drivers, which was misleading because the money actually was awarded to teams. Dewar contrasted it to a PGA event, where the listed winnings actually go directly to the golfer.

“Whether you divide it and say it’s a little bit of this, little bit of that and publish it on Monday, we don’t think it’s value-added because it’s not like golf,” he said. “Golf publishes that. We don’t publish at the end of the NBA score that LeBron made $4 million for free throws. It’s not contemporary. Our fans get change.”

IndyCar takes a similar approach, publishing none of its winnings for races aside from the Indianapolis 500.

NASCAR outlined much of the framework for charter teams Tuesday during a ballyhooed news conference, but there wasn’t as much information provided about the open teams. A fan outcry erupted on social media when a charter wasn’t assigned to Wood Brothers Racing, which has competed in NASCAR since 1950, prompting many questions about the deal.

Dewar provided some details about how the system would work for the four slots available to teams without charters:

–Open teams also will receive a guaranteed amount (referred to as a “fixed purse) as the charter teams do, but it will be much smaller. Dewar said it was roughly 30 percent of the guarantee for a chartered team.

–If fewer than four open teams compete in a race (meaning a field of fewer than 40 cars), the leftover money will be placed in a year-end pool that will be distributed among the top three open teams based on performance. Wood Brothers Racing, which plans to field Ryan Blaney full time in the No. 21 Ford, is the only open team that has announced intentions to run the full season.

“A field for us is 36 (cars), not 40,” Dewar said. “So if we get 38 cars at California and Phoenix, we’re not disappointed.

“We anticipate the logistics model for some of the smaller teams doesn’t make sense to go to all the races, based on the distance and purse.”

–Dewar said NASCAR isn’t expecting many open teams to employ a start and park strategy (which usually was dependent on the higher purses available to teams that would have been considered open under the previous system). Chartered teams are disincentivized from the controversial practice, risking the loss of a charter if they don’t meet performance standards that haven’t been made public.

Dewar said the Daytona 500 would remain the highest-paying race of the season and said the amount of money provided to teams would increase each year over the nine years of the term.

Though the winnings won’t be disseminated to the public anymore, teams have been provided extensive documentation that explains how much they’ll receive for finishing in each position of every race.

NBC Sports has learned that some “open teams” are expecting to earn a minimum of roughly $160,000 for finishing last in the Daytona 500. Last year, under the race purse that included contingency plans, the last-place finisher earned $262,000.