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CHRISTIE: It’s Time to Make a Charter Agreement Deal Happen

NASCAR Charter Agreement Toby Christie Opinion Race Team Alliance

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, TobyChristie.com

We’re just about halfway through the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, and we are still wondering if/when a new Charter Agreement between the race teams and NASCAR will be signed. When the new Charter Agreement negotiations began a couple of years ago, there was absolutely no panic around the timing of the deal.

It felt there was plenty of time for NASCAR and the teams to fairly meet in the middle of their negotiations. The can was kicked down the road. Fast forward to the here and now, and the poor can has been crushed from all of the kicking, and it no longer feels like time is a luxury that anyone involved in the process has. It feels like backs are being pressed firmly into a corner.

It’s officially time to panic.

According to a report from Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, multiple team owners felt that the latest proposal, which was delivered to the teams from NASCAR roughly two weeks ago, was one of the worst proposals yet.

Not only did NASCAR reportedly pull back from some of the middle ground that they had found with race teams in past proposals, but they also included a provision that the France family/NASCAR would be allowed to purchase Team Charters themselves.

Excuse me, what are we doing here?

NASCAR already owns the majority of the race tracks on the circuit. They already handle broadcasting productions in several areas of the sport. If the sanctioning body owns their own teams in the NASCAR Cup Series as well, I fear we’re looking at the motorsports equivalent of a monopoly.

And that is not hyperbole.

That’s already a scary thought, but that’s before you even begin to think about the potential ethical violations that arise when a sanctioning body owns the teams within the racing series that it is ruling upon. All it will take is one questionable call going in the favor of the NASCAR-owned team to spark outrage within the fanbase of the sport.

The legitimacy of the sport is potentially at stake. It’s a razor-thin tightrope, and one that we don’t need the top form of motorsport in the United States walking on.

What if Roger Goodell owned a National Football League franchise while remaining the NFL’s Commissioner? That would be absolute nonsense, wouldn’t it? That’s essentially what the France family owning a NASCAR Charter would equate to.

Another interesting layer of things from the negotiations has been NASCAR’s apprehension to award permanency of Charters.

Since the Charter System was adapted in 2016, we have had folks like Justin Marks, Michael Jordan, and others come into the sport by utilizing a system, where you spend $20-plus million to gain your place in the NASCAR Cup Series field. How could you justifiably tell those same people seven years from now that Charters are no longer a thing, and that the financial barrier of entry is no longer a thing?

You can’t. It would be a one-way ticket to seeing his Airness walk out of that garage and never return.

But it remains puzzling as to why NASCAR won’t just make Charters permanent. NASCAR reportedly has told teams that they can’t guarantee Charters past the current broadcasting deal, because they can’t guarantee there will be another broadcasting deal after that one.

Sure, but as Denny Hamlin noted on X, Charters don’t cost NASCAR a thing…

Whatever the race winnings are in the NASCAR Cup Series, and wherever those race winnings come from (TV, NASCAR, a mythical money tree), has a way to get properly distributed to the 36 Charter-holding teams with the Charter System. If there are no race winnings, then, there is nothing to distribute, whether there are Charters or no Charters. End of story.

From the outside, it feels like a no-brainer to make the Charters permanent — unless NASCAR has aspirations of someday fielding all 36 cars themselves? But even if that is the end goal, and there is no evidence to suggest that it is, you would think NASCAR is not ready to take on that big of an overhaul in 2025.

So that begs the question; is NASCAR really prepared to push the team owners to the point where there will not be a deal done heading into the 2025 season?

If so, we could be seeing NASCAR Xfinity Series and/or ARCA Menards Series drivers and teams being carted out to us on Sunday afternoons to be passed off as the top racing product in the United States.

No disrespect to either of those two series, or the young emerging talent that is working it’s way up the ladder system currently, but that would be a deathblow for NASCAR. And with the sanctioning body kicking off a new media rights agreement in 2025 with FOX, NBC, Prime Video, and TNT, you’d imagine it is imperative for the sanctioning body to come out of the box strong, because when that seven year deal nears its end, there’s another one to try to negotiate.

You don’t want to start things off with a throw-away 2025 season.

And yes, I’m aware that NASCAR has successfully run a race with “replacements” before. In 1969, the Professional Drivers Association refused to compete at Talladega Superspeedway due to fears of the track’s safety, and NASCAR pressed on by running the race with the undercard talent, a race, which was won by Richard Brickhouse.

But this isn’t 1969. In 1969, NASCAR Cup Series events weren’t carried flag-to-flag on a weekly basis on television, and NASCAR fans weren’t educated on who many people in the field that day at Talladega were. And it wasn’t uncommon back then for drivers to miss significant portions of the schedule.

Now, if a driver misses a race, as Kyle Larson did for the Indianapolis 500, we have an all-out watch for NASCAR to make a decision on a Playoff Waiver. Fans these days are educated heavily on the differences between what they see in an ARCA race and what they see in a NASCAR Cup Series event, and to think that they would accept anything less than the best drivers and teams in the NASCAR Cup Series is a slap in the face to the diehards.

Simply stated, Alex Clubb is not going to be able to replace Chase Elliott. He’s just not.

As I write this column, we sit 249 days away from the 2025 Daytona 500, and we don’t actually know for sure which drivers and teams will actually be showing up for the race. Hell, tickets have gone on sale, and fans don’t have any guarantee as to which teams will be on the entry list for The Great American Race. People are planning their yearly vacations around the sport’s biggest race, and there is a chance that the sport’s biggest names won’t be a part of it.

That would be a complete shame, and I feel the ripple effects from that decision would be felt for far longer periods of time than the Brickyard 400 tire debacle of 2008. This is a true fork in the road situation for NASCAR.

The strongarming needs to stop. The gamesmanship needs to end. It’s time for the sanctioning body, and the race teams to have some serious conversations, and find a middle ground.

As it stands, the NASCAR Cup Series race teams state that they do not turn a profit, and they haven’t in quite some time, and they’ve shared their books with NASCAR to prove it.

NASCAR, on the otherhand, is seemingly churning out quite the profit. Although, as a privately owned company their books are probably tougher to open than Fort Knox, so we’ll probably never know if a yearly profit is being achieved for sure. But when you see NASCAR buying up race tracks, building their own state-of-the-art production facilities, all the while requiring payments from teams within the sport for everything from entry fees to filiming content at the race track, it’s unfathomable to believe that NASCAR isn’t operating firmly in the black.

The teams just want that same luxury. It’s time for a deal to be struck before the clock runs out.

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2 Responses

  1. Has NASCAR made a profit? Jim France didn’t become a billionaire by running things at a loss that’s for sure.

  2. it is my belief that every one of the France family is a BILLIONAIRE. i don’t think they got that rich by selling beer and hot dogs even though they are over priced.

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