Monday, August 7, 2017

Spade Racing’s 2017 Early-August Silly Season Update

Two former champs with nothing set for 2018
Due to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pending retirement, a soft sponsorship market, and events set in motion in the previous offseason (I’m looking at YOU, Carl Edwards), the 2017-18 Nascar “Silly Season” has been arguably the wildest on record—and its not even over yet!  For those of you who’ve lost track, here is where we stand as of now, team-by-team—and what everybody needs:

Hendrick Motorsports needs…sponsorship and a driver—and some future stability would help.  The latest domino to fall was the release of Kasey Kahne effective the end of this season.  While the 48 and 24 teams are set, the 88 gets a new/familiar face with Alex Bowman stepping into Dale Jr.’s former ride next year.  The long-suffering 5 car needs a new driver AND sponsors, with both Farmer’s Insurance and Great Clips leaving the team.  To make matters more-shaky, it seems like every current sponsor’s contract expires after 2018, leaving Nascar’s powerhouse team with less-than-usual stability.

Joe Gibbs Racing needs…sponsorship.  The 11, 18, and 19 are all locked-in with drivers and sponsors.  Erik Jones is replacing Matt Kenseth in the 20 car next year but sponsorship is unknown—the 20 car has run the dreaded “Toyota Racing” scheme a few times, and Jones’ current primary sponsor, 5-Hour Energy, was grandfathered in due to Monster Energy’s entitlement sponsorship, meaning it must stay with Furniture Row Racing.

Stewart-Haas Racing needs…sponsorship, and lots of it.  The 4 team of Kevin Harvick is covered.  Annnnnd that’s about it.  The 41, 14, and 10 cars have all run with in-house sponsorship from Haas Automation (although in the 41’s case, that was planned), and the lack of funding has put Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick in situations where they have unsure plans for 2018.  Busch has officially been made a free agent, while Patrick is said to be on a contract that only “renews” if sponsorship is present.  Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer’s car still needs more sponsors to fill out the season.

Team Penske needs…a charter (and sponsorship).  Locking up Brad Keselowski took a possible major player off the market, and the Miller Lite relationship with Penske appears to be iron-clad.  There’s no changes in store for the 2 car, but Ryan Blaney will be coming over from the 21 car to the revived 12 team.  The Captain had said that he would only do so if sponsorship made sense, so one would have to figure that he has something on tap.  However, they WILL need to get a team charter in order to lock themselves in for the 2018 season.

Richard Childress Racing needs…clarity and sponsorship—but mostly clarity.  While the 3 and 31 cars of Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman seem to be set for 2018, the 27 is losing both its driver AND its full-season sponsor.  This puts RCR in a confusing spot—do they bring over Ty Dillon from the satellite 13 team and try to find sponsorship?  Do they merge with another team?  Do they simply shut down the 27 team?  Or do they move up a driver from their Xfinity program?

Roush Fenway Racing needs…to keep improving.  Roush has fallen from its days as a five-team juggernaut, but in the midst of this Silly Season’s craziness, things are pretty stable, with both the 6 car of Trevor Bayne and the 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fully-funded and, in Stenhouse Jr’s case, winning races.  The team still has Chris Buescher out on loan to JTG-D (see below) and will be able to shuffle their third charter for another year next season, but one would have to think that continued improvement on the track is the team’s biggest goal for next year.

Chip Ganassi Racing needs...sponsorship.  Despite Kyle Larson developing into one of the sport’s brightest young stars, longtime sponsor Target has gone ahead with its plan to withdraw completely from motorsports at the end of the year.  While Jamie McMurray’s 1 car seems to be on solid footing, Larson’s 42 car could have some gaping holes in its funding for 2018, although a new “multi-race sponsor” is due to be announced soon.

Furniture Row Racing needs…a clear path forward.  You’d have to be a fool to mess with what Martin Truex Jr. has going on this year, but the team IS losing its loaned-out driver, Erik Jones, from the 77 car next year.  The team is in a unique spot as it not only owns a charter, but has a captive sponsor in 5-Hour-Energy that can’t leave for another team.  While the 77 is, in theory, the most-competitive ride available beyond the HMS 5 car, one has to wonder what owner Barney Visser would rather have—a solid championship contender with outside funding in the 78, or to continue to try and cement their status as a two-car team in 2018.
JTG-Daugherty Racing needs…on-track performance.  Unlike most of the other teams in Cup, JTG-D is on rock-solid footing with their sponsorship situation.  Meanwhile, AJ Allmendinger is signed into the future, and Chris Buescher is due to return on another loan from RFR.  Still, the team has struggled on intermediate tracks and rarely contends outside of plate races and road courses.

Richard Petty Motorsports needs…something to hold on to.  RPM’s downsizing from a two-car to a one-car team was supposed to solidify things.  However, an injury to driver Aric Almirola, the wild Silly Season around them, and expiring driver and sponsor (Smithfield) contracts at the end of the year have the 43 car in a very precarious spot for the future.  Speculation runs the gamut from expanding to a second team with Bubba Wallace Jr. all the way to the team folding into another, continuing in name-only.  The coming months should show what shape the 43 (and possibly 44) team(s) will take next year.

The Wood Brothers need…a charter.  Signing Paul Menard and his family’s sponsorship puts the Wood Bros. on solid footing for the near future.  All the team is missing now is a charter, having leased the one they are currently using.

The rest of the teams are pretty tough to figure, with deals usually being announced days before Daytona Speedweeks.  There’s also rumors of teams shutting down (BK Racing) or moving up (GMS Racing).  What does the future hold?  Stay tuned.