Not since 2009 have two former Cup champions switched teams — but might that take place for next season?
With 12 races left this year, former champions and free agents Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch have not stated where they will race in 2019.
Truex has won 20 percent of the Cup races since last season, finished in the top five 56.7 percent of the time and scored a top 10 in more than two-thirds of those races.
It would seem natural that the 38-year-old reigning Cup champion will stay with Furniture Row Racing, but everything changed when 5-hour Energy announced July 18 it would end its involvement in NASCAR after this season. 5-hour Energy became a co-primary sponsor for 30 Cup races this season on the No. 78 team with Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats.
Two weeks ago at Bristol, Truex couldn’t give a number when asked to estimate a percentage of remaining with the team after this season.
“Right now, we need sponsorship,” Truex said then. “That’s as simple as it gets.”
Busch, 40, signed a one-year extension with Stewart-Haas Racing in December, after Monster Energy decided to return as a team sponsor. Busch, the 2004 Cup champ, has said he’s talked to multiple teams about a ride for next year.
Busch won two weeks ago at Bristol to assure a playoff spot. He has four top-five finishes and 15 top-10 results this season — nearly bettering what he did last season for SHR.
The last time two drivers with Cup championships switched teams for the same season was 2009 when Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte changed teams.
Stewart, a two-time champion at the time, went from Joe Gibbs Racing to Haas CNC Racing, which was renamed Stewart-Haas Racing. He won his third title in 2011 for that organization. Labonte, who won the 2000 crown, moved from Petty Enterprises to Hall of Fame Racing in 2009.
2. Boom or Bust?
When a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of BK Racing — and its charter — to Front Row Motorsports last week, it marked the ninth time that a charter has been sold since the system was created before the start of the 2016 season.
One charter has been sold twice in that period, meaning eight separate charters (22.2 percent) have been sold in less than three years. Many more have been leased. Teams can lease a charter once in five years.
The charter system debuted in February 2016 after about 18 months of discussions between NASCAR and team owners. NASCAR announced there would be 36 charters, guaranteeing each holder a starting spot in each race. The charter system also guarantees a set amount of income that isn’t solely based on a team’s finishing position in a race. Performance the past three years, a fixed amount per race and year-end point fund money also are factored.
The point was that teams could better budget what they would receive during the season and have a better idea of how much sponsorship they needed.
Also, the charter system was billed as a way to provide greater value to teams and led to the creation of a Team Owners Council, similar to what Cup drivers have. The Team Owners Council since has played a key role in the discussion of rule changes.
The money paid for charters has been kept quiet. Court documents from BK Racing’s bankruptcy case state that BK Racing sold a charter to Front Row Motorsports for $2 million in December 2016.
The bankruptcy court approved Front Row Motorsports’ purchase of BK Racing for $2.08 million. That included the charter, cars, equipment and other assets, meaning the charter sold for less than the one BK Racing sold in December 2016.
The bankruptcy court approved the bidding process for the BK Racing sale. A price of $1.8 million from Mike Beam, president of GMS Racing, was set as the minimum bid for the charter and certain assets. At the auction, Front Row Motorsports was the only bidder and topped Beam’s total.
Less than three years into the charter system, the movement of charters shows the difficulties with owning a team. The hope was that it would lead to a way for new investors to join the sport — and it could happen in the future.
But it takes more than a charter. There is all the equipment that must be purchased, personnel hired and the need for an alliance to have any hope of being competitive. Then there’s the sponsorship that a team needs to secure. That’s even a big jump for an Xfinity team to make if it wants to move to Cup.
With all that, it’s not surprising at this point that the charters have been passed among those that already own teams.
Here are the charters that have been sold since the charter system was created:
2016 season — Michael Waltrip Racing sold a charter to Stewart-Haas Racing for the No. 41 car.
2016 — Michael Waltrip Racing sold a charter to Joe Gibbs Racing for the No. 19 car.
2017 season — Premium Motorsports sold a charter to Furniture Row Racing for the No. 77 car.
2017 — BK Racing sold a charter to Front Row Motorsports for $2 million, according to court documents.
2017 — HScott Motorsports sold a charter to Premium Motorsports for the No. 15 car.
2017 — Tommy Baldwin Racing sold a charter to Leavine Family Racing for the No. 95 car.
2018 season — Furniture Row Racing sold the No. 77 car’s charter to JTG Daugherty for the No. 37 car.
2018 — Roush Fenway Racing sold a charter to Team Penske for the No. 12 car.
2018 — BK Racing charter sold in bankruptcy court to Front Row Motorsports for $2.08 million, including various assets.
3. Track News – Rockingham
The Richmond County Daily Journal reported that Rockingham Properties, LLC was expected to finalize paperwork Thursday on the purchase of Rockingham Speedway.
The paper did not list a price but stated that county tax administrator Vagas Jackson said the property was valued at $2,993,324. The paper reported that Dan Lovenheim, who owns restaurants and bars in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, is the majority owner of Rockingham Properties LLC.
Lovenheim did not provide the paper with plans for the track only to say they are “remarkably encompassing.”
4. Track News – Lucas Oil Raceway
The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday that Lucas Oil Raceway, which includes the drag strip that will host the upcoming U.S. Nationals, a road course and an oval track where the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series used to race, is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation.
The first phase is focused on the drag strip.
Future plans call for improvements to the 0.686-mile oval so that it can host more stock car races.
“I think it’s no secret that we’d like to see other forms of stock car racing, be it different forms of NASCAR racing that come back out here,” Kasey Coler, the track’s general manager, told the newspaper. “That’s long term what we’d like to see.”
5. Did you know …
Darlington Raceway is Ryan Newman’s best track based on average finish. He has an average finish of 11.68 there. His next best track is Rockingham. He had an average finish of 12.4 there.
Since 2009, Newman and Denny Hamlin have the most top-10 finishes at Darlington Raceway with seven each. Next are Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. with six each.
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