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In light of the charter deadlock situation plaguing NASCAR, teams already pose a brilliant proposition for the sport, steadily heading towards a potential ‘sponsorship graveyard’—permanent charters. A large part of the reason race teams demand a bigger share of the new $7.7 billion media rights money is to offset inflating costs and justify the high price of renewing guaranteed starting spots in all 36 of the season’s races.

Although this widely unpopular system was only introduced in 2016, it isn’t a problem primarily faced by newer teams like 23XI Racing or Spire Motorsports. Even Jeff Gordon admitted a few years ago that it had been “a while” since Rick Hendrick’s ‘oldest race team on the grid’ had been able to make any significant profits. But amidst the growing dissatisfaction, Spire boss Jeff Dickerson laid out the benefits of a permanent charter deal to add to 23XI team co-owner Michael Jordan’s claims for a ‘permanent’ revenue stream.

From Michael Jordan’s 23XI to Spire, top teams are feeling the charter chokehold

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NBA legend-turned-NASCAR team owner Michael Jordan himself fanned the flames further when he admitted the sanctioning body’s “big miss” to the NY Times. According to MJ, if NASCAR remains rigid in retaining its revenue-sharing policy, “this sport’s going to die not because of the competition aspect, but because, economically, it doesn’t make sense for any businesspeople.”

Considering His Airness’ $3.2 billion net worth and claims of a standstill in economic movement within even the best-of-the-best garages of Hendrick Motorsports, Jordan’s sentiments could make a fair argument, albeit under a little scrutiny. But Jordan’s straightforward assessment received a much-calculated follow-up, courtesy of another ‘NextGen’ team owner, Jeff Dickerson.

Speaking to Kelley Earnhardt Miller on the Business of Motorsports podcast, NASCAR’s most recent charter acquirer (for $40 million) explained his perspectives on whether the system should be made permanent. The Spire Motorsports co-owner echoed Michael Jordan’s initial sentiment, “I don’t think NASCAR wants to take them away. They should be permanent…” 

He then laid out the potential benefits for NASCAR and team owners going ‘all the way’ with the proposition. “What a permanent charter would do for the owners is, I think, you would find more owners taking risks like us on investing into their business, right? I also think it brings back owners investing in younger drivers. Because if it’s permanent, it’s also easier to go to outside investors. You know, there’s a whole market right now of people trying to get into sports,” explained Dickerson. That’s what he’s done at Spire.

Most drivers racing under the Spire Motorsports banner are younger than 25. Carson Hocevar (21) and Zane Smith (24) compete full-time with the #77 and #71 Camaro in the Cup Series, while Rajah Caruth (21) and Chase Purdy (24) drive the #71 and #77 Silverado in the Truck Series. Besides that, the #7 Silverado is driven by several rookie drivers, allowing them to try and make their mark in the sport, as Dickerson mentioned. Corey LaJoie (32), who drives the #7 Camaro full-time, is the only veteran racing for Spire.

Recently, Michael Jordan’s right-hand man, Curtis Polk, rhetorically asked the NY Times, “Could you imagine if Jerry Jones had to periodically renew his [Dallas] Cowboys franchise?” Speculatively speaking, that would have indeed brought up a huge barrier for the NFL franchise pursuing its staggering $9 billion valuation as of 2023. However, the France family’s control over NASCAR’s decision-making policies has hampered the sport’s ability to match up to its American spectator sports counterparts, who are faring just a little bit better among audiences worldwide.

To quell some concerns about the charter situation, top officials have stated that a new agreement aiming to put “teams in a better financial position” is, in fact, closer than anticipated. On the other hand, with the broadcast deal starting in 2025, teams could potentially gain a 40% boost to their earnings if NASCAR does play out the negotiations fairly.

Who currently claims the bigger slice of the revenue pie?

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According to NBC Sports, “under the current media rights deal,” tracks take away 65% of a race’s revenue, whereas NASCAR and race teams split the remaining at 10% and 25%, respectively. Contrastingly, a 2022 calculation brought to light by Curtis Polk outlines only 93% of the sport’s value to reside with NASCAR and the tracks.

Consequently, race teams share only 7% of the collective onus. Due to these conflicting scenarios and the scarcity of well-paying sponsors, many notable organizations, such as Richard Petty Motorsports and Furniture Row Motorsports, had to either sell off their spots or shut down their doors completely.

But another glowing reason, as it currently stands, is the rising price of a full-time charter in the first place. When Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin paid $13.5 million to StarCom Racing for 23XI’s second full-time no. 45 entry, neither would have anticipated Live Fast Motorsports’ most recent charter sale to amount to a mind-blowing 40 million dollars only two years later.

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That’s roughly a 2x jump on the price of one of these coveted starting spots in the Cup Series for a shot at a guaranteed payout every race. This leads to another interesting topic of discussion involving smaller race teams like BJ McLeod’s Live Fast, which lack the financial backing of bigger race teams such as the JGRs or Hendrick Motorsports.

It is also important to note that since the implementation of the charter system, almost 11 teams have downsized their operations or ceased to exist altogether, with LFM consequently landing up as the latest race team affected by these financial situations. How long till NASCAR finally provides the much-needed shot in the arm the sport demands after enthralling audiences for over seven decades?