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Dale Jr’s Grave Confession About NASCAR’s Charter System Affirmed by Xfinity Team Owner’s Struggles

Published 04/12/2024, 9:10 AM EDT

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When NASCAR officials came up with the charter system in early 2016, the objective was stability. The idea was to give every charter team a place on the grid and a piece of NASCAR’s earnings. But over the years, the price to acquire a charter has skyrocketed. So much so that in 2021, even NASCAR veteran Dale Earnhardt Jr fumbled for his team’s prospects in the Cup Series.

Back then, Dale Jr harbored a mixed approach toward the debate. But now, with a billion dollars worth media rights and simmering protests, he has taken a stand. And one underdog Xfinity team owner has taken his side.

Dale Earnhardt Jr’s charter fears are validated

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Carl Long is one of the few ‘non-charter’ team owners in NASCAR. His team, MBM Motorsports, does not have ties to manufacturer funding and or data-sharing contracts with the bigwig teams. Yet they continue to persist in the Cup landscape, although the crippling charter system makes things worse for him.

As early as 2021, Dale Earnhardt Jr had ridiculed the exorbitant prices of charters. Back then, $10 million for a charter was way out of his range to add JR Motorsports to the Cup Series. In 2024, Dale Earnhardt Jr harps on the same issue, as he sides with the underdog teams who have little legroom for financial freedom.

Dale, in his podcast, had said, “If it was a $10 Million charter buy in the Xfinity Series, I wouldn’t be in it. Carl Long and the guys, they came to show up and race this weekend [Cup race at Martinsville]. Is that realistic to be an open team, and come compete and financially be able to at least break even? I grew up in a NASCAR where if you wanted to build your Cup racing car, you built one, and you raced.”

‘Dale Jr Download Reload’ host Carla Gebhart took the cue from there and talked to Carl Long, who was the guest.

The owner’s responses revealed the bleak scenario where even the bare minimum is difficult to get. “That’s our goal, to at least break even. We just don’t have a ton of overhead like the bigger teams do. So we can offer a product for a lot less money.”

Long mentioned that finances were a top priority. “The first thing we do is we look at the payouts…And then you look at the car count, and then possibly go home if there’s too many of ’em. In Martinsville, there were no hotel rooms..and the way the schedule’s laid out, you just drive up there and drive back.”

Carl Long also added: “$50,000, $60,000 a race is kind of the low end of where people try to run at in Xfinity. And I can offer the same thing in Cup and give guys a chance to learn Cup and give me a chance to learn more about cars, be a little more competitive as we get more experience.”

The MBM team lead’s financial woes are nothing new, as one fateful incident had bludgeoned his ambitions.

Long’s Cup dreams were cut short by a technical snag

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After Carl Long qualified for the 2000 Coca-Cola 600, he was on his way to a good career. He drew fan support after a tumbling wreck in North Carolina in the 2004 Cup season. But in the All-Star exhibition race of 2009, some unsavory circumstances developed. And it was that incident that crippled Long’s prospects and even kept him from having his own charter. 

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Just after 3 laps into the race, his engine blew. Later on, the post-race inspection revealed that Long was using an engine that was 0.17 cubic inches too large. This happened because Long was using a refurbished engine that had been leased to him.

The weekend didn’t end well for him as not only did he lose the race early on, but he was also fined a gigantic $200,000. Long believed that if not for that incident, things would have been different.

“I probably would’ve been in a position to where I would’ve been issued a charter, and my life would be way different. We were on the way of, you know, building Cup cars and running Cup full-time.”

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Well, this shows that all the glamor of NASCAR is only the tip of the iceberg. In reality, many racing teams and drivers are struggling in the shadows.

Read More: “Love To See Him Dominate” – Dale Earnhardt Jr Has a Clear Favorite in F1’s Post-Schumacher Era

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Written by:

Sumedha Mukherjee

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Sumedha Mukherjee is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports who is known for her in-depth track analysis as well as her lifestyle coverage of Cup drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Inspired by the Kiwi's journey so far, Sumedha has also written pieces on Shane Van Gisbergen, predicting how the Supercars Champion would do in the new and unfamiliar American setting. Pairing her research skills with her vast experience as a writer, Sumedha creates stories her readers can easily get lost in.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh