By Toby Christie (Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie)
What a rough week it’s been for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Two top-tier teams have announced that they are closing down their operations in the Series for 2019: Roush Fenway Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing.
For Roush Fenway, the move is obvious if not absolutely necessary.
The team has been struggling to find it’s footing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for years, and the NXS program was hemorrhaging funds and resources last season as their No. 60 team was involved in about as many accidents as there are races on the schedule.
Also of note, team co-owner John Henry has expressed an interest in purchasing a significant stake in the sanctioning body. If that comes to fruition, you would imagine Fenway Sports Group would be ineligible to own or co-own a team in any NASCAR series.
If Roush Fenway Racing is going to survive long term, they must right the ship in a hurry. The move to close their NXS team is strictly to help the organization focus their resources on their fledgling Cup Series program.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 team finished second in the NXS Owner Championship in 2018 and they appeared to be a front runner for the 2019 Driver Championship with Ross Chastain slated to drive their cars.
Chastain had gotten a part-time opportunity to drive for CGR last season when DC Solar’s (a company that sponsors — or sponsored — a large chunk of races for the team) owners went to bat to give Chastain a chance in great equipment.
The gamble paid off as Chastain led the most laps at Darlington before crashing out, then he won at Las Vegas in the fall. A race later, Chastain capped off his CGR stint with a second-place finish at Richmond.
As the season concluded, CGR and DC Solar announced that Chastain would be the driver of the future for the NXS team. It was a true Cinderella Story for the driver who comes from a long line of watermelon farmers. But last month, the glass slipper fell off and shattered into a million pieces when the offices of DC Solar were raided by FBI agents.
The raid was followed up by Friday’s news that Chip Ganassi Racing was folding up it’s NXS program for 2019 due to lack of funding. Here is the statement the team released:
“Due to a lack of sponsorship funding we will cease operation of the No. 42 Xfinity team in 2019. This was a difficult decision for me to make and it comes with much anguish as this is a championship caliber team (having won six races and finished second in the owners championship) and more importantly because it affects a number of good people’s livelihoods. Running a car without proper funding is difficult to do.”
Just like that, CGR is no longer in the NXS lineup for this upcoming season.
The landscape of finances in the sport of NASCAR are rapidly changing year after year, but this doesn’t look good at all. When a team that has five championships in the series (RFR) and a team that was one of the series best in 2018 (CGR) are closing down what chance does anyone else have of making it going forward?