By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Nobody should have been shocked by the big announcement that NASCAR made Tuesday, as we have heard rumblings of it coming true for months. For the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, NASCAR will officially implement a team charter system. What this basically means is that 36 teams, who have ran full-time schedules for the past few seasons will now be insured starting spots in every points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event this season.
Additionally, NASCAR will also trim the field size from 43 cars to 40. That means any team that doesn’t have a spot secured through this charter will now have to fight for the remaining four positions in the starting field from week to week.
“Today represents a landmark change to the business model of team ownership in NASCAR,” Brian France said. “The Charter agreements provide nine years of stability for NASCAR and the teams to focus on growth initiatives together with our track partners, auto manufacturers, drivers and sponsors. The Charters also are transferable, which will aid in the development of long-term enterprise value for Charter members.”
The deal will last at least five years with an option for for more years, which would push the deal to nine years, which would align with NASCAR’s television packages with FOX and NBC. The charter system according to a press release from NASCAR also, “establishes a Team Owner Council that will have formal input into decisions, and provides Charter teams with new revenue opportunities including a greater interest in digital operations.”
The teams who will be granted a position in the charter include: Richard Petty Motorsports (Car No. 43 and 44), Richard Childress Racing (Car No. 3, 27 and 31), Team Penske (Car No. 2 and 22), Hendrick Motorsports (Car No. 5, 24, 48 and 88), Roush Fenway Racing (Car No. 6, 16, and 17), Chip Ganassi Racing (Car No. 1 and 42), Joe Gibbs Racing (Car No. 11, 18, and 20), Michael Waltrip Racing (TBD and TBD), Stewart-Haas Racing (Car No. 4, 10, and 14), Furniture Row Racing (Car No. 78), Front Row Motorsports (Car No. 34 and 38), JTG Daugherty Racing (Car No. 47), Tommy Baldwin Racing (Car No. 7), Germain Racing (Car No. 13), Go Fas Racing (Car No. 32), BK Racing (No. 23 and 83), Premium Motorsports (No. 98), Circle Sport Racing (No. 95) and HScott Motorsports (No. 15).
Obviously, if the teams mentioned above know for a fact that they have a spot secured in the field each week, it provides a much easier sell to potential sponsors.
“The new Charter program strengthens each of our businesses individually and the team model as a whole, which is good for NASCAR, our fans, drivers, sponsors and the thousands of people who we employ,” said Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing. “This will give us more stability and predictability, and it will allow us to take a more progressive, long-term approach to issues.”
Notable teams missing from the charter include Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 team, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 team, HScott’s No. 46 team and The Wood Brother Racing Team’s No. 21 team.
For SHR HScott and JGR, the reason their teams aren’t included are that they are expansion teams that were recently started up. For the Wood Brothers, they aren’t included because they’ve raced a partial schedule for several years, and part of the required criteria was running a full schedule since 2013.
The now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing team does forfeit two spots in the charter which may provides an opportunity for their spots to be acquired by another team currently not on the charter program if they opt to purchase them. Rob Kauffman, who now holds a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing is the principal owner of MWR’s charter spots.
This is a landmark deal for the sport, and the value it has added for the team owners is unprecedented. This deal is of course the culmination of the ideas formed through the Race Team Alliance, a group of team owners in the sport that was founded last season by Kauffman.
Image: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images