Sometimes you earn by doing, sometimes you earn by succeeding. In NASCAR, perseverance seems to trump performance as it announced the Charter teams heading into 2016 and beyond. It has everything to do with how tenacious a team has been in at least attempting to run, and absolutely nothing to do with their success, be it yesterday, today, or even at some future date.
Thirty-six teams need not worry, at least for the next three years, whether or not they will be racing each week in Cup action after NASCAR granted charters to 19 racing organizations. The agreement, which is slated to run for the next nine seasons, means that the holders of those charters will have no concerns, regardless as to how their seasons have gone or how they qualify. Good news for those seeking some guaranteed stability in their operation, knowing that they can tell sponsors and vendors that they will be running no matter what.
While 36 will be locked in, only four open slots will be available to anyone else. The field will be reduced from 43 to 40 cars, though when you consider that only a couple a dozen of them have any realistic chance of success any given week, the fans have not lost much.
Where they lose is that there are some bad teams that will not be going anywhere or replaced by anyone until at least 2025. The only way to lose a Charter is to finish among the three worst Charter teams for three straight years, and even then that would be at NASCAR’s discretion. If you want a Charter, you either got rewarded with one this week or you have to buy it. No Charters can be earned through racing performance. You can get the loan of one from a team for a single season, and that could happen with that particular Charter only once every five years. In addition, the maximum number of Charters an organization can have is four, the same number of cars they actually can own and operate.
NASCAR came up with the 36 charters after going over the past three seasons to determine which outfits were making the weekly commitment. The Wood Brothers No. 21, driven by Ryan Blaney, did not make the cut as that organization has been running part-time in recent seasons. Performance alone did not cut it, as the Kurt Busch ride, the Stewart-Haas No. 41 and the Joe Gibbs’ No. 19 team of Carl Edwards, also failed to qualify due to their relatively recent formations. Though Clint Bowyer’s entry made it, thanks to a million dollar Charter loan from Premium’s Jay Robinson, Harry Scott’s other car, the No. 46 of Michael Annett did not. With Michael Waltrip Racing going the way of the dodo, its two charters can be purchased from what is left of MWR. It is expected that Busch and Edwards will wind up as the beneficiaries of that.
Eight organizations, which include Petty, Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs, Childress, Penske, Stewart-Haas and Ganassi, have combined for a total of 942 victories. Two other teams, Front Row and Furniture Row, have a win each. That leaves eight, a list that includes such franchise entities as JTG Daugherty, Baldwin, Germain, Go Fas, BK Racing, Circle Sport and Premium Motorsports, all which have yet to taste the champagne. Meanwhile, the owners of cars driven by Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards, who both won twice in 2015, have to buy Charters to be locked in. Wood Brothers, returning to full-time operations after nine seasons, is an outsider. Those 98 wins, 116 poles over 1405 races since 1950 do not mean squat.
If one day all this equates into some sort of equality amongst teams, where today’s weak sisters grow and compete with the big boys, then fine and good. However, if we are left with a band of weak sisters at the expense of those who can demonstrate an ability to succeed, we shall all be the poorer for it.