Friday 5: Market grows for NASCAR charters

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The pursuit of NASCAR charters could be as competitive as the racing in a year that has seen 10 different winners in 12 Cup races.

Two car owners tell NBC Sports that they are open to dealing charters. This comes as interest in Cup ownership has grown with the Next Gen car’s debut in 2022.

Car owner Rick Ware, whose team operates four charters, tells NBC Sports that he’s more inclined to lease a charter than sell one at this point.

“We have some options on the table for some leases and it’s one thing that we’re looking at,” Ware said. “We’re open to all scenarios.”

Ware notes that a deal might include more than cash.

“I think there are maybe some opportunities there to maybe assist some manufacturers that maybe want other people to come in,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to negotiate the best road for RWR and that may be leasing to somebody in particular that helps the program from a technology share, those kind of things.”

As for how many teams he plans to have next season, Ware said: “If I would have to make a guess right now, I’d say we’d be running three full-time cars next year.”

T.J. Puchyr, co-owner of Spire Motorsports, tells NBC Sports that he’s also had conversations about a charter.

“It’s been mild, but I think it will get busier,” he said.

Puchyr also said he would consider acquiring a charter.

“Somebody asks me if I’m a buyer or seller, I’m yes (to both),” he said.

There could be many buyers.

Three new Cup teams joined this year, but Trackhouse Racing is the only one of those leasing a charter. Leases are good for one year. Each charter can be leased once in a four-year period.

Trackhouse Racing will need to either lease another charter or purchase one for next season.

“I lose a little bit of sleep each night because we don’t own a charter,” car owner Justin Marks said in late March. “ … I’m working every day in the direction of trying to secure our future by orchestrating ownership and acquisition of a charter. It is not getting easier. It is getting harder.”

Also in need of a charter will be Kaulig Racing. Car owner Matt Kaulig told NBC Sports in late April that he’s confident he’ll acquire one for next season, saying: “I certainly don’t lose sleep over it.”

23XI Racing hopes to expand from a one-car team but has not given a definitive timetable. It will need a charter whenever it adds another Toyota.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in April that he and sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owners of JR Motorsports, have discussed fielding a Cup team and securing a charter. He said that “the charter system makes it a big challenge for us. That’s a huge financial challenge for anybody trying to get involved in the Cup Series.”

JTG Daugherty Racing is running Ryan Preece’s No. 37 team without a charter this season. There are other groups also looking to enter Cup and secure a charter.

Rick Ware Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing have four charters each, giving them 16 of the 36 charters. Each charter guarantees its car a start in each race. Charters also provide a specific payment  plan so teams can better prepare a budget before each season.

For Ware, collecting four charters was an opportunity to build his race team for when the Next Gen car arrived.

He formed a partnership in 2019 with Richard Petty Motorsports to create Petty-Ware Racing and use RPM’s second charter.

Ware purchased a Front Row Motorsports charter in 2019 that had been leased to Tri-Star Motorsports in 2018.

Ware also purchased a charter from Front Row Motorsports in 2020 that Front Row acquired in 2018 for $2.08 million (along with assets) as part of BK Racing’s bankruptcy case.

Ware’s other charter was purchased from Premium Motorsports last year.

“I knew for sure that if you wanted to have longevity in this business, you had to have a charter,” Ware told NBC Sports. “We sacrificed a lot the last two or three years family-wise, business-wise to make sure that we could have a quality baseline model. We brought in a lot of new sponsors that we’re going to be keeping. But we can’t grow without knowing where we’re going to be. We’ve taken lot of lumps both, I think, on the track and in the media, but there really is a plan.”

With the Next Gen car, Ware can begin to act on his plan. The new car is intended to lower costs over the long term. Vendors will provide several parts and pieces instead instead of teams doing so. Team owners, though, are expected to face an increase in costs next year because the transition to the new car will make some equipment obsolete.

“Now that the new car is here, we can start to justify spending money going forward with the new car,” Ware said. “In all honesty, we spent all our money doing what I thought was more important and that was making sure we had a future with the charters.

“Spending money on R&D on a car that is going to be done in six months didn’t make any sense to me. Now our goal is to step our programs up across the board, and I’m excited about this new car.”

2. Steady Progress

Among those in the top 20 in points, only Christopher Bell (plus 13 positions), William Byron (+12) and Michael McDowell (+8) have gained more spots than Chris Buescher after 12 races this season compared to the same number of events last year.

The second-year Roush Fenway Racing driver enters Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1) 13th in the points. He was 19th at this time. He’s scored 54 more points — nearly a full race worth — than he had after 12 races last year.

The difference is simple, Buescher said.

“No. 1 is getting that first year down, new team, new crew chief,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “No practice (last season) just put us behind for a long period of time. I think we were finding our stride at the end of year that is helping us get more consistent.

“Some of the gains that came through the offseason were really a matter of everyone in all of their departments setting goals, working hard to find those and really achieving a lot of those goals, whether it was less drag or better sim development or better body builds. … That’s always the plan through the offseason, but I saw more structure than I’ve ever seen.”

NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400
Chris Buescher heads to Dover with back-to-back top 10s. He’s never had three consecutive top-10 finishes in his Cup career. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Buescher has fared best on 1.5-mile speedways this year. He finished a season-best seventh at Atlanta, placed eighth at Kansas and won a stage at Homestead. He finished ninth last weekend at Darlington, which followed the Kansas run and gave him back-to-back top 10s for the first time this season.

Even with the success, he recognizes the challenges to make the playoffs. With 10 winners and Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick likely to win before the regular season ends, there could be no more than three playoff spots available via points.

“We’re in a good place right now, but we’re not locked in by any means and definitely a lot can change between now and (the regular-season finale) at Daytona,” Buescher said. “We’re watching it, but we’re not racing specifically for points. We’re going after running well. If you can run top 10 every week, you’ll gather a couple of stage points here and there and ultimately finish well. That’s where, I think, it’s added up for us.

“We’re not making crazy moves to try to gather a stage win at the expense of a finish. We’re being smart about it, and we’re racing ourselves. (Points are) going to become more important really quickly, especially if we’re not able to wrap up a win in the next couple of weeks.”

He might have had a better finish at Kansas had NASCAR not waited to throw a caution for an errant tire until after he pitted.

The tire rolled away from Tyler Reddick’s pit crew during his stop on Lap 212 of the 267-lap race and went across pit road. The tire came to rest in the infield grass, just off pit road.

NASCAR did not throw a caution flag since the field was in the middle of green-flag pit stops. A few drivers, though, stretched their run. A caution would have benefitted them by having part of the field a lap behind.

Buescher was the final driver to pit in the cycle, giving up the lead on Lap 226. The caution came out on Lap 231 to retrieve the tire.

“The way I see it is if it was dangerous after 10 laps, it was dangerous after one,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “Now, I’ve been bitten by this because it’s been called early, so I guess I’m even more discouraged by it happening this way. It’s a safety thing, then it’s a safety thing, period, and it doesn’t matter about what the situation is.

“The explanation for it (from NASCAR) was we wanted to let strategies play out, right? Well, that sounds great, but our strategy was running long to hope for a caution. So, really, it took away from our strategy.”

Buescher also said that how NASCAR called that caution “was not something that completely changed our day. It didn’t do us any favors, but it didn’t just destroy our day. … Looking back, it’s just, man, we expected there to be a caution just based off of previous circumstances. Just wishing for more consistency in everything. It would just help you let your own strategies play out.”

3. Chasing points 

For as good as Martin Truex Jr. has been this season in scoring three wins, he remains a distant second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in the points.

As the series hits the halfway mark of the regular season this weekend, Hamlin leads the points. He has a 75-point lead on Truex, who is second in the standings.

Is it realistic to think Truex can catch Hamlin?

Darlington winners and losers
Martin Truex Jr.’s three wins this season have come at Darlington, Martinsville and Phoenix. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“It’s doable for sure,” said Truex, who dominated last weekend’s race at Darlington. “It’s obviously going to take a little bit of rough luck on their part. We’ve had a couple bad races and that’s really the difference. Wrecked at Daytona, wrecked at Talladega, and a flat tire on the last green-white-checkered at Bristol really hurt us.”

 Truex admits that when it comes to points, he’s thinking about playoff points. He has a series-high 18 playoff points. Next is Kyle Larson with nine.

“Winning races, winning stages that’s what we need to do, and that’s what we did this past weekend,” he said. “It would be great to win the regular season because that’s a chunk of those points as well. We’ll see how it goes. We’re in a good place and focused on what we’re doing.”

Truex has a good chance of scoring more playoff points this weekend at Dover. He’s finished first or second in each of the last four Dover races.

4. Seeking better results

This hasn’t been the start Corey LaJoie hoped. He heads to Dover 30th in points in his first season with Spire Motorsports.

“I think, on paper, we are probably a minus, but I think internally, we are better off,” LaJoie said of how he measures his season. “We had mechanical failures early. We had an engine break and a couple of things happen. We had a really good run at Martinsville. We should have probably had a top-10 result there, but we got caught up on pit road. We’ve had four DNF’s, so if we clean those up, then we’re 24th or 25th in points, which I feel like really over-achieving for what we set out to do.

“But we’re sitting there in 30th … in points, and still pretty bullish on what we’re capable of doing. It was a little bit more of a transition than I expected from the Ford Mustangs we ran last year (with Go Fas Racing) and transferring the set-ups over to these Ganassi Camaros, the aero balance was a little bit different.

“They had a little bit more front downforce, so we had to adjust, and we probably threw away three or four weeks on intermediate tracks to get that balance figured out. But I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on what these cars need to make some speed, and I was pretty happy with how we ran at Darlington. We were probably a 20th- to 23rd-place car (finishing 22nd) … and I think for us, that’s checking the boxes and incrementally getting better and figuring out the things we need to do to get better throughout the year.”

5. Scoring stage points

Here is a look at who has scored the most stage points after 12 races this season.

172 – Denny Hamlin

117 – Martin Truex Jr.

115 – Ryan Blaney

100 – Kyle Larson

99 – Joey Logano

96 – William Byron

89 – Chase Elliott

85 – Brad Keselowski

74 – Kyle Busch

58 – Alex Bowman

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Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”