I don’t want to be the one banging the drum that NASCAR is a dying sport. I don’t fully believe that and don’t want to shine a negative light on the sport as a whole. But, these last few announcements though, well it’s all their problems wrapped up into one.
First off, good for Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises and Austin Hill. They all secured deals and funding to continue racing in 2019. But, with the circumstances in which they happened and with the whole deal at Chip Ganassi Racing, it also sheds some light on what’s glaring.
This sport is completely ran off of sponsorship dollars. Before someone says, it’s always been that way, I get that, this topic though is a bit different. I get that in order to pay the bills and to remain competitive that you need a significant amount of funding. That problem and how to fix it is a whole different conversation. What I’m talking about is we have two very talented drivers losing rides because of the all mighty dollar. Rides are being taken not for how much talent one has, but for how much money he or she brings.
Don’t believe me? Just look at what’s occurred since Friday on all three levels of NASCAR.
DC Solar was raided and their funding on the NASCAR XFINITY Series ride with Chip Ganassi Racing was in peril. In turn, the No. 42 Chevrolet was shut down. Yes, the same car that Ross Chastain signed up to drive on a full season basis this upcoming year. The same ride that was given to him was his break in this sport. The same ride that had crew guys hired. Now, because of the money being gone, the shop is essentially closed before it even began.
In the late summer of 2018, Furniture Row Racing announced that they’d shut down because of funding. The defending Cup Series champions would be no more past 2018. The main reason? Funding. Well, what if I told you Bass Pro Shops and Auto Owners, sponsors on that No. 78 Toyota have followed the driver, Martin Truex Jr., over to Joe Gibbs Racing for a combined 32 races. We don’t know the details of these deals but if they stayed for 32 of the 36 points paying races with FRR, would that team have shut down? I know there’s way more to it, like charters, leases, engine suppliers, chassis, equipment, etc, but a 2017 Cup championship caliber of a team and one of the most dominant in the last few years shut down because of money.
On Tuesday, it fell into the Truck Series. Hattori Racing Enterprises won the championship last November with Brett Moffitt. He had six wins and 13 top five finishes in 23 races last year. Unfortunately, a championship holds less weight than money. He wasn’t retained and Austin Hill was brought in as a replacement. Nothing against Hill, but he finished 11th in the final standings last year with one top five result. Granted, he has shown to have some talent and could pick up where Moffitt left off, but a championship caliber team is still dependent on money instead of talent that was right there with them in the first place.
On Wednesday, GMS Racing announced that Johnny Sauter, a driver who won six times for them in 2018 and 13 times in their three year relationship with one another including the 2016 championship, have parted ways. Sauter, calls it a financial decision.
When is enough, enough?
Why are so many talented drivers losing rides? These are just three examples. There’s way more scenarios where this has taken place recently. They’re losing out because of money. When does the money aspect not play such a big role? That’s where the conversation turns into how to make this sport not so money dependent. That falls on rising costs and resources but if this doesn’t change, this is just the way racing is going to become.
Chastain, had a win (Las Vegas), a runner-up (Richmond) and a pole and most laps led (Darlington) in his three tries with CGR but he lost that opportunity now for money. Moffitt, had six wins and a championship, but lost that opportunity for someone else with money. FRR and Truex lost their relationship because of money.
See the problem?