Talk of a charter system taking over the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ownership model has heated up as we get closer to the start of the 2016 season. With no firm deal yet, it is hard to speculate on what kind of impact this will have, but we are starting to see movement by teams in preparation of what will come.
The first such move was the dissolving of the Hillman Racing team (#40) and the merger of Cirlce Sport Racing and Leavine Family Racing (LFR). In essence, Circle Sport took its cars and points from their #33 car and has allowed the LFR team to now go for a full season for the first time in their history. While it is always sad to see teams go away because of the impact on the team workers, in this case it was a welcome move.
Circle Sport Racing only seemed to perform when it had direct help from Richard Childress Racing, not only behind the scenes, but with either Ty Dillon or Brian Scott driving. When it wasn’t either one of those drivers, it was a random mix of drivers ranging from Alex Kennedy to Ryan Ellis to even B.J. McLeod. Each one getting the ride because they had some sponsor to bring with them.
In an interview with Popular Speed, Ellis said the days of a driver buying a ride for the weekend could be over. This is the same driver who took to fans to raise money needed for driving. How is this a bad thing? While less teams inherently mean less opportunity, just because a driver has sponsorship does not mean they are worthy of an opportunity.
Furthermore, what is better for NASCAR racing, having more cars that are less competitive or less cars that are more competitive? I would say I’d rather see 35-40 cars out there if they will all compete, versus getting to that magic 43 number that was picked for some reason during the 1998 season.
That point plays into what transpired during the day on Thursday, which was the moves by Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR). About a month after announcing a sponsor and getting their pictures taken with driver Alex Bowman, TBR released Bowman from his duties.
The cited reason by team owner Tommy Baldwin was “as NASCAR transitions to different business and competition models, teams have to make decisions accordingly.” In plainer terms, TBR needs to be running closer to the front and it might be because the charter might be based upon points positioning from this year.
Baldwin has chosen veteran Regan Smith, who is an upgrade over Bowman, but it is not clear what kind of miracles he can work with the TBR team. They are optimistic in their hire, as we should be optimistic that this charter system can lead to stronger teams going forward knowing they are locked into the field each week.