Cup teams ask NASCAR for ‘meaningful’ talks on charters

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The fight between NASCAR and its teams over a new revenue model prompted the owners of 16 chartered organizations to send a letter to NASCAR’s board of directors earlier this month requesting “meaningful dialog” regarding the franchise model system.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, was sent to NASCAR via email on May 1, the same day NASCAR’s exclusive negotiating window expired with both Fox Sports and NBC Sports on a new television package.

The letter essentially represents the entire Cup Series field and acknowledges that conversations with NASCAR have been productive, noting a “tentative acceptance of the economic split of a new media deal.”

But the letter makes clear the main sticking point between the teams and NASCAR remains the charter system, under which each of the 36 cars with a charter are guaranteed a spot in the Cup field each week and a slice of TV package revenue.

The charters, which are worth millions, require renewal. The teams want to make the charters permanent but NASCAR has balked, which led to the team owners skipping a scheduled April 5 meeting with NASCAR because they were at a “significant impasse” over charters.

The teams wrote in the letter that acceptance of “the new media split” was dependent on permanent charters.

“We have seen the market for Charters rise since initially issued, but there is currently no real market due to the uncertainty surrounding the pending renewal process,” the letter states. “In order to continue to invest in our Teams and the sport as a whole, we need to build long term value in our Charter ownership that is stable, predictable, and permanent.”

NASCAR declined to comment on the letter other than noting it was received May 4.

The stock car series in late April began scheduling meetings with individual race teams with NASCAR CEO Jim France and President Steve Phelps. The first meeting was held May 2, a person with knowledge of the meetings told AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

However, the Race Team Alliance that consists of all 16 chartered teams has made it known that the four-member negotiating committee represents all organizations in negotiations.

The charter system was introduced in 2016 to create a franchise model that protected team owners’ investment in a racing series founded by and independently owned by the France family. The charters can be held, sold and leased to other teams, and they can also be revoked by NASCAR.

The current charters expire at the end of the 2024 season – the same time as NASCAR’s current television package – and the negotiating committee told AP last month that NASCAR was unwilling to even discuss making them permanent. The committee is comprised of Jeff Gordon representing Hendrick Motorsports; Joe Gibbs Racing president Dave Alpern; RFK Racing president Steve Newmark; and Curtis Polk, an owner in 23XI Racing and longtime business manager for Michael Jordan.

The four went public last October to reveal the teams found NASCAR’s current economic model unfair with little to no chance of long-term stability. NASCAR, which is run by the son and granddaughter of founder Bill France Sr., vowed to work on a solution.

The letter sent this month said “substantial progress has been made on a framework to address the economic issues.” But it asked NASCAR to explain its position on permanent charters.

“We would like to directly engage in conversations in order to understand (NASCAR’s) concerns. Items that have been mentioned are general concepts about transfer restrictions, protection from bad actors and dealing with material adverse economic changes over time,” the letter says. “We have reviewed these concerns with our outside counsel and others who are well versed in such issues from other leagues, and we are optimistic that by working together we can work through these or any other specific concerns, just as we did successfully at the creation of the charter system.”

The teams said their request is no different than NASCAR’s “desire to pass along ownership of a strong and robust property to the next generation of the France/Kennedy family”

“We seek to do the same thing with our families,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by representatives of 16 different teams, including Hall of Famers Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush.

NASCAR maintains that teams receive about 40% of industry-wide generated revenue, but the teams dispute the calculation.

An $8.2 billion media rights deal signed ahead of the 2015 season allots 65% to the tracks, 25% to the teams and 10% to NASCAR, according to the series. NASCAR owns the majority of the venues on the Cup Series schedule, including the crown jewel Daytona International Speedway, and the France family owns NASCAR.

The teams have said that sponsorship covers 60% to 80% of their budgets and they need financial relief from NASCAR because they’ve become “full-time fundraisers.”

Friday 5: New Cup owners reshaping sport with their bold moves


NASCAR’s newest Cup owners are reshaping the sport through bold decisions that could force other team owners to react accordingly or risk falling behind.

The move this week by Legacy Motor Club — co-owned by Maury Gallagher and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson — to join Toyota in 2024 is the latest in a string of aggressive moves new Cup owners have made seeking a competitive edge.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson unsure of 2024 driving plans but NASCAR a priority

Justin Marks (Trackhouse Racing), Brad Keselowski (RFK Racing) and Denny Hamlin (23XI Racing) all have made moves in the past two years that not only impact the sport now but likely will do so for years to come. Those three teams have five drivers in the top 12 in points heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

“A lot of the battles that you see on the racetrack are happening in the boardrooms, with decisions on hiring drivers, hiring crew chiefs and where to put resources — aero, engine, vehicle dynamics — how to get that next great talent out of the schools, whether it be for a pit crew member or an engineer,” Keselowski said.

“These are very serious battles. They fight every day. There’s winners and losers on these every day. The guys that are good at it, they’re the ones that are winning the races. It hides behind the driver that won the race, and I think a lot of these owners are quite OK with that, myself included.

“But the reality is a lot of battles happen at the ownership and the (general manager) level of what you see on any given Sunday.”

Marks, Keselowski and Hamlin — all new owners since 2021 have had their share of victories off the track.

Marks was a single-car team owner in 2021 when he purchased Chip Ganassi Racing, securing both charters from that organization and later signing Ross Chastain to join Daniel Suarez on the team.

Both drivers made the playoffs last year. Chastain finished second to Joey Logano for the championship a year ago and leads the points nearly a third of the way through this season.

Keselowski left his ride at Team Penske — where he had been for more than a decade — to be a part owner in what is now RFK Racing after the 2021 season. In his first year as a team owner, Keselowski celebrated Chris Buescher’s victory at Bristol last fall, the organization’s first Cup victory since 2017. Both Keselowski and Buescher enter this weekend in a playoff spot.

Denny Hamlin and co-owner Michael Jordan shocked many in July 2022 when 23XI Racing announced it had signed Tyler Reddick for the 2024 season and beyond.

Hamlin celebrated the announcement by posting a chess piece on his Twitter account, the inference that his team plays chess while the rest of the garage plays checkers.

“We’ve said from the beginning that 23XI Racing wants to be a different kind of a race team and that’s a forward-thinking team,” Steve Lauletta, president of 23XI Racing said at the time.

The move wasn’t unprecedented, but it is rare to sign a driver more than a year before they’ll join an organization. Hendrick Motorsports signed Kasey Kahne in 2010 to join the team beginning in 2012. Stewart-Haas Racing signed Clint Bowyer in 2015 to take over Tony Stewart’s ride in 2017.

After Richard Childress Racing signed Kyle Busch, the organization allowed Reddick to leave a year early and join 23XI Racing for this season. Reddick already has a victory, winning at Circuit of the Americas, and is sixth in the points.

Now comes the move by Legacy MC to Toyota, joining Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing in that camp. Legacy MC was never going to be among the top three organizations at Chevrolet. Those are Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Trackhouse Racing.

The move continues Gallagher’s aggressive style. Less than a year after he purchased Richard Petty Motorsports to form a two-car Cup team, he partnered with Johnson. The new ownership group was announced six months ago.

“It really has moved quickly,” Johnson said of going from new owner to announcing a new manufacturer for the team. “When Maury and I sat in that (press conference) room in November, I didn’t think we’d be sitting here today (announcing the move to Toyota). That just wasn’t in the cards. We weren’t having those conversations and our path forward looked a lot different.”

Johnson noted the team isn’t done making such decisions as it builds to be more competitive with Erik Jones and Noah Gragson.

“This is one chapter in that fast pace,” Johnson said. “We know that there are many more to come. We’re gearing up and getting ready for it.”

The rest of the sport better be ready because it won’t be only Legacy MC with bold moves.

2. RFK Resurgence

RFK Racing scored top-10 finishes for both its cars in the past two weeks at Talladega and Dover. It marks the first time since 2014 that the organization has had consecutive top 10s for both cars.

It’s quite a contrast from last year.

At this time a year ago, Keselowski had one top-10 finish. He has five this season. Buescher had three top 10s a year ago. He has four this season.

Keselowski said he saw progress start to be made for RFK Racing last fall.

“By then, it’s really hard to see because you’re kind of buried in the points and all those things, it just doesn’t really show up,” he said. “Over the offseason, we added a few more key pieces and people and resources. You have the start over with the points and now it’s very visible, two cars in the playoff hunt.”

Keselowski is ninth in points; Buescher 12th. Keselowski notes that the organization has had a shot to win in about a third of the races this season.

But for all that RFK has done, it guarantees little. The season is just under a third of the way through. That’s a key milepost to Keselowski.

“I really look at the season in thirds,” he said. “You have your first third of the season where you kind of unload with all of your preseason changes, really trying to see who made the right ones in the offseason.

“The middle part of the summer is really about refining who you are and then you have the playoff push in the third part of the season. … The summer stretch is a really important stretch to just try to have a little bit of momentum getting into the playoff and if you’re not in the playoffs, you really need to solidify yourself  with wins or good runs.”

After going to Kansas this weekend, the series heads to Darlington. Both are playoff tracks. Teams that go to North Wilkesboro for the All-Star Race before ending the month at Charlotte. Kansas and Charlotte are 1.5-mile tracks and Darlington is a 1.366-mile track. This stretch will give teams a good view of how they compare at aero tracks.

“I look at Kansas, Darlington and Charlotte, those are big races for us,” Keselowski said.

3. Thrill ride

As Formula One driver Pierre Gasly drove the Charlotte Roval in an RFK Racing car on Tuesday, he experienced something he had not in motorsports.

Driving on a track banked 24 degrees in the turns.

“Going through the banking in fifth gear … bottoming out, I did think about my insurance and whether their car was well-insured,” said Gasly, who is competing in Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix. “They say don’t push too much, but you don’t how to do that. If you jump in the car, you want to feel the limits.

“I must say I was quite amazed with the braking. I didn’t expect the car to brake that hard.”

He also came away impressed with the race shop.

“I was amazed with the factory,” Gasly said of visiting the RFK Racing shop and museum.

His Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon drove the car on the Roval and left enthused.

“I did enjoy it massively,” Ocon said. “It was awesome just to have an experience in a proper NASCAR new generation car.”

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said in Miami that he remains interested in competing in a NASCAR race but remains focused on his F1 career.

If Hamilton runs in NASCAR some day, he would follow other F1 champions who have tried Cup, including a pair this year. Former F1 champions Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button both drove in the Circuit of the Americas Cup race this season. Button also is scheduled to compete at Chicago and the Indy road course this season.

4. Kyle Larson’s ups and downs

Kyle Larson’s uneven season continued last weekend at Dover, making one wonder if he might be due for a strong finish this weekend at Kansas.

Larson has failed to finish or had to go to the garage during a race six times in the first 11 events this season. He failed to finish after crashes in the Daytona 500, Atlanta, Talladega and Bristol Dirt Race.

Larson has four top-five finishes, scoring wins at Richmond and Martinsville. He placed second at Las Vegas and was fourth at Phoenix.

Circuit of the Americas is the only race among the first 11 this year that Larson has not had a top five, failed to finish or had to to go to the garage for repairs. He finished 14th that day, completing all 75 laps.

Through it all, Larson has scored the most playoff points so far. His two wins and two stage victories give him 12 playoff points. William Byron is next with 11 playoff points, followed by Kyle Busch, who has 10 playoff points.

5. A new winner?

There has been a different winner in each of the last eight races on a 1.5-mile track (excluding Atlanta, which is now in the same category as Daytona and Talladega with its drafting).

Those last eight winners are:

Las Vegas (March 2023) — William Byron

Homestead (October 2022) — Kyle Larson

Las Vegas (October 2022) — Joey Logano

Texas (September 2022) — Tyler Reddick

Kansas (September 2022) — Bubba Wallace

Coca-Cola 600 (May 2022) — Denny Hamlin

Kansas (May 2022) — Kurt Busch

Las Vegas (March 2022) — Alex Bowman

Dr. Diandra: Evaluating the likelihood of a Bubba Wallace repeat at Kansas


Bubba Wallace enters this weekend hoping to repeat at Kansas Speedway. His win last fall was 23XI Racing’s second at the track: Wallace’s then-teammate Kurt Busch won the spring race.

The 23XI Racing teams were so dominant at Kansas last year that new teammate Tyler Reddick joked at Dover that he and Wallace would have to get together to decide which one of them wins which race this year.

Given that Wallace has only two top-10 finishes this year and four DNFs, should owners Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin start preparing to celebrate a Wallace repeat at Kansas Speedway?

Wallace’s 2023 stats

My dominant image of Wallace this season is him berating himself after crashing out at COTA, just a week after spinning at Atlanta.

But that’s a subjective observation. Objectively, Wallace’s 2023 stats are slightly better than his 2022 numbers.

Estimating the likelihood of a Wallace repeat at Kansas by comparing 2022 and 2023 stats after 11 races

Wallace has just one top-five and two top-10 finishes, but that’s better than this time last year. Five top 15s are much improved over the two from last year.

What’s most impressive, however, is that Wallace has achieved these numbers despite four DNFs. One was mechanical (an engine failure at Fontana). Two of the other three were especially painful because they happened at Daytona and Talladega.

Wallace is a strong superspeedway driver. Last year, his average finish at the first three superspeedways was 10.7, with a best finish of second and a worst of 17th. This year, his average superspeedway finish is 25.0.

Despite the bad runs at some of his best tracks, Wallace still improved his overall average finishing position after 11 races by 0.7 positions relative to 2022 and his average running position by 0.2 positions.

Wallace at Kansas

Wallace earned his best finish of 2023 (fourth) at the sole intermediate track the Cup Series has visited this year (Las Vegas). Not only did he finish well, Wallace scored points in both stages.

Although Kansas hosted Wallace’s second career win, his relationship with the track has warmed only recently. In 10 career starts, Wallace has a 21.9 average finish with only three top-15 finishes. He’s led 60 laps, with 58 of those coming during last fall’s win.

The good news is that those three top-15 finishes were the last three races Wallace ran at Kansas Speedway. His average finishing position in the three most recent races is 8.3 — a win last fall, a 10th-place finish last spring and a 14th-place finish in fall 2021.

Wallace is mired in 21st place in the season standings, 154 points behind leader Ross Chastain. With that much of a point deficit and only 15 races remaining in the regular season, Wallace needs a win.

Wallace’s two career wins both happened late in the year, though. His Talladega 2021 victory was the 31st race of the year. Last year’s Kansas win was the 28th race of the season. The big question is whether he’s better primed for another fall win rather than a spring victory.

Keys for a Wallace repeat at Kansas Speedway

Avoid contact. Although Wallace exited COTA on Lap 10 of 75, he was headed for good finishes — maybe even a win — until the last lap of the other two races. Kansas leverages a lot of the same tactics as a superspeedway, but without pack racing. That could be an advantage.

Don’t let mistakes or misfortunes rattle the team. Kansas is more forgiving of small mistakes than superspeedways. It’s possible to recover from a spin or minor contact, especially early in the race. Someone on Wallace’s team needs to take the head cheerleader role to ensure that one mistake doesn’t affect the rest of the race.

Pit road performance is key. The No. 23 team has mostly avoided pit road penalties this year. Wallace was caught speeding once. The pit crew incurred only one penalty when a crew member fell over the wall at Richmond.

But pit crew precision has been an issue for 23XI Racing from the start. This year, 23XI hires and trains its own pit crews instead of subcontracting from Joe Gibbs Racing.

The in-house pit crew has performed better across the first 11 races. By my calculations, the 2023 crew loses about 0.8 fewer positions per pit stop than the 2022 crew did.

The bad news is that they’re still losing track position on pit road.

For example, a 37-second pit stop at Phoenix this year dropped Wallace from 11th to 21st. That’s a big deficit for a driver to overcome.

At Dover, Wallace lost position on five of six stops for a net loss of 36 spots. The team’s best pit stop time (measured from when the car enters the pit box to when it leaves) was 10.11 seconds. That ranked the team 12th in average time among all teams executing four or more four-tire pitstops.

The average four-tire pit stop time for the No. 23 was 11.01 seconds, which ranked 20th. Brad Keselowski’s team had the best average pit stop time at 10.09 seconds. Their No. 6 team’s average was two-hundredths of a second faster than the No. 23 team’s best stop.

Finally, hope for fewer green-flag pit stops. The team loses more positions on average during pit stops under green than they do under yellow.

Addition of Legacy MC to Toyota 2024 lineup is part of manufacturer’s evolution

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Legacy Motor Club’s move to Toyota in 2024 is viewed as a “foundational move” by the team but could be just part of how Toyota evolves in NASCAR.

Here’s a look at the impact of Tuesday’s announcement.

2024 Toyota lineup

Legacy MC will be Toyota’s third Cup organization in 2024, joining Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing. That will give Toyota such high-profile owners as Joe Gibbs, Michael Jordan and Jimmie Johnson, who co-owns Legacy MC with Maury Gallagher.

Legacy MC drivers Erik Jones and Noah Gragson will join a Toyota stable that has former Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs, Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

Benefit to Legacy MC

By moving from Chevrolet to Toyota after this season, Legacy MC is no worse than third on the manufacturer’s depth chart. At Chevrolet, Legacy MC is behind at least Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Trackhouse Racing, if not others.

Johnson called the move a “foundational piece” for the organization. The team started as GMS Racing in 2021, became Petty GMS when Gallagher purchased Richard Petty Motorsports after the 2021 season, and changed its name in January 2023 to Legacy Motor Club.

“This gives us the best opportunity we have to be successful year after year,” Johnson said Tuesday.

New dynamic

Gallagher made it clear Tuesday that while Legacy MC will be united with Toyota’s other teams, it wants to be self-sufficient.

“One of the things when we talked (to Toyota) is we wanted to stand alone,” Gallagher said Tuesday. “We wanted to be our own team. Historically, most of the teams in Toyota has had (Joe Gibbs Racing) as their technical partner.

“We want a direct relationship with Toyota at this point. We built the shop to do that. … It’s something that, I think, is the best outcome for the team and gives you the best control of your future.”

Future of GMS Racing’s Truck team

The new deal does not include GMS Racing, which Gallagher owns and fields entries in the Craftsman Truck Series. The truck operation is separate from Legacy MC.

“We haven’t really addressed the Truck Series and exactly what we’re going to do next year,” Gallagher said Tuesday.

Further expansion for Toyota?

Toyota’s eight-car lineup for 2024 will be its largest Cup lineup since 2011. There could be room for more expansion for Toyota, which joined Cup in 2007.

“I think there’s room for a couple more cars potentially,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development said Tuesday in response to a question from NBC Sports. “I think the sweet spot is somewhere between eight to 10 (teams). If they are quality teams and capable drivers, I think that’s enough.

“As it relates to 2024, you can rest assured that we are done. Our focus is on making sure that we deliver to this new partner. … Maury and Jimmie have taken a chance on Toyota. We’re humbled by it and now the pressure is on us to deliver.

“So that is going to be the focus. It goes without saying that this has to be done without compromising the relationships and the strength that we have already established with Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing.”

Benefit for Toyota

Wilson said the Next Gen car has made it easier for Toyota to add teams without a comparable expansion of its Cup budget.

With more work done by single-sourced suppliers and reductions on wind tunnel time, Wilson notes that it provides Toyota more flexibility in expanding its roster of teams. More teams provides more information and that can mean more success.

“Data, software, strategy, those are all knobs we’re turning like crazy right now,” Wilson said. “With this new car, that’s where a lot of the advantages will be secured. So we’ve got a lot work in front of us.”

Toyota has won three of the first 11 races this season: Reddick won for 23XI Racing at Circuit of the Americas, Bell won for Joe Gibbs Racing at the Bristol Dirt Race and Truex won Monday for JGR at Dover Motor Speedway.

Cup team owners skip quarterly meeting with NASCAR


Cup team owners skipped Wednesday’s quarterly meeting with NASCAR officials because of an impasse between the two sides on charters, according to The Associated Press.

NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday: “NASCAR is committed to open and productive dialogue on a regular basis with all industry stakeholders. We remain committed to continuing discussions in the spirit of collaboration and with the shared goal of growing our sport for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the team owner council, fearing the meeting would be “hijacked” by conversation solely about charters, told NASCAR it felt talks should be postponed. The AP reported that NASCAR planned to hold the meeting, but the teams did not attend.

The Athletic reported that team owners want NASCAR’s charter system to continue but that Jim France is said to be “dead set” against making it permanent.

NASCAR’s charter agreement with Cup teams started in 2016 and goes through the 2024 season. The agreement sets up the revenue model and requires the 36 charter teams to compete in every event.

Teams receive money based on entering each race, their performance in each race, performance over the previous three seasons and the points fund. Even with this, teams rely on sponsorship to offset the difference to compete in the series.

Cup team executives said last October that they need additional revenue streams to fix a “broken” business model. Their comments came after NASCAR rejected a seven-point proposal from team executives on a new model.

“We’re very far apart,” Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, said last October.

Gordon is one of four members of the negotiating committee for teams. The others are Curtis Polk, an investor in 23XI Racing and Michael Jordan’s longtime business manager, Joe Gibbs Racing President Dave Alpern and RFK Racing President Steve Newmark.

“The economic model is really broken for teams,” Polk said in October.

NASCAR responded last October by issuing a statement: “NASCAR acknowledges the challenges currently facing race teams. A key focus moving forward is an extension to the Charter agreement, one that will further increase revenue and help lower team expenses. Collectively, the goal is a strong, healthy sport, and we will accomplish that together.”

JGR’s Alpern said last October that additional cuts by teams would not be the best way for them to achieve financial stability.

“When it comes to cost-cutting, one of the things that’s kind of surprising in our sport is that when any of the other stakeholders spend money on something, an upgrade, signing someone from another league, it’s viewed as an investment within the sport,” he said.

“But when teams spend money, it’s we’re reckless and you need to cut. We’re investing in our business as well, whether it’s people, our facilities, we’re all trying to grow the sport and the answer to everything is not cut costs. I don’t know of another sports league or business, for that matter, who came to prosperity through cutting.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed how teams can be more financially viable last November ahead of the season finale at Phoenix.

“We fully believe that having profitable teams does lead to more competitive racing,” he said. “If you look at it, there are two areas to do it: increasing revenue, which we have every intention of doing with our race teams, and controlling expenses, right?

“The teams have asked us to control expenses. Where those come from, I don’t know. That will be up to the race teams to determine the best way to figure out how they would control those expenses.

“I’m not suggesting that we have a specific discussion around what that would be or the mechanisms that we put in place. The teams, the idea of having caps, floors, ceilings, luxury taxes. We’ll continue to have dialogue with our race teams.

“The charters go through the end of 2024. We will have meaningful dialogue with our teams next year, I’m sure. We’ll figure out what is going to be a fair opportunity for all stakeholders. Moving forward in 2025, what that looks like, I don’t know. It will absolutely have to be around both revenue increases as well as some type of expense restriction in some way.”

Polk said last October said that the sport is a “money-printing machine, but the teams put on the show. The teams are the content. The drivers, the team owners and the cars are what fans turn on for every week and what the media companies pay the big money.”

NASCAR, tracks and teams share TV revenue — a 10-year deal estimated at $8.2 billion will end after the 2024 season. For each race, 65% of the TV money goes to the tracks, 25% goes to teams and 10% goes to NASCAR.

With teams getting a smaller percentage of the TV money, they have to rely on sponsorship to cover costs.

Newmark said that sponsorship makes up about 60-80% of a team’s overall revenue. He noted how that is out of line with other sports.

The Fenway Sports Group, which is a co-owner of RFK Racing, also owns the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League and Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League.

RFK’s Newmark noted that in Major League Baseball, 8-12% of a team’s overall revenue comes from sponsorship. In the NHL, that figure is 17-18% and for the Premier League it is closer to 26-27%.

All those totals are significantly lower than the NASCAR model. The impact of sponsorship on teams was evident last year with Joe Gibbs Racing losing Kyle Busch after last season.

Longtime sponsor Mars, Inc. announced in December 2021 that it would not return to the team or sport after the 2022 season. That began a search by JGR for a company that could invest an estimated $20 million into the No. 18 team and Busch.

After a deal with another company fell through in the summer of 2022, Gibbs was left without a sponsor and unable to sign Busch to a new contract.

“There is no other pro sport where the signing of your top athlete is completely dependent on the decision of someone at a brand,” JGR’s Alpern said. “Imagine if Aaron Rodgers of the (Green Bay) Packers had a contract held up because the stadium sponsor hadn’t made their decision on what they’re doing.

“That’s what we’re faced with as race teams. And, if I’m honest, we’ve almost become full-time fundraisers. We spend the majority of our time raising money, not to make money (but) to survive.”