Premium Motorsports is switching things up with its pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams.
Cole Whitt, the team’s primary driver, ran the first 13 events of the season in the No. 98 car. With the team’s focus on Whitt’s effort, a second car was in the process of being reorganized.
Reed Sorenson began to pilot that No. 55 Chevy six races into the year. Since only 40 cars have been entering each race, he is locked into the field. However, if the entry list features 41 or more, both Whitt and Sorenson will be in position to possibly miss the event. Several deals being discussed make it likely that’ll happen a few times, at least in the season’s second half; Ryan Ellis and his BK Racing car are one of a few part-time rides that will pop up.
That leaves Premium preparing for more competition. At Pocono Raceway this weekend, the two teams unloaded with different numbers in an apparent attempt to “maximize their performance.” Premium Motorsports made a number swap, putting Whitt in the No. 55 car and Sorenson in the No. 98, the car that’s performed better overall this season.
“They are just trying to get some points for the [No.] 55,” Sorenson told Frontstretch after Sunday’s driver/crew chief meeting. “It’s still the same team and the same cars. We just switched the numbers up.
“They’re trying to get the number further up in points. I don’t know if it’s for money at the end of the year or if it pays better. But they’re trying to add a few more points to the [No.] 55.”
The number swap will continue, according to Whitt, depending on when he is scheduled to have a sponsor for the No. 98 car.
As of now, funding is in place for a number of additional races. Whitt brought along Rinnai to Premium from Front Row Motorsports, sponsoring him at Phoenix and Fontana. Additionally, Speed Stick joined forces with Premium prior to the season, putting the blue and silver colors on Whitt’s car for an unknown number of events.
Sorenson, meanwhile plans to be with Premium for the remainder of the year. He began to pilot the No. 55 ride at Martinsville Speedway at the beginning of April, remaining in the seat since with the exception of the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, where Michael Waltrip drove the car.
Neither car has a charter with owner Jay Robinson leasing his from what was formerly the No. 62 car to Michael Annett’s No. 46 team run by HScott Motorsports. That team was awarded a charter since Robinson merged his organization with Phil Parsons Racing in the midst of the 2015 season.
“The main difference is the pay is less,” Sorenson explained when asked to compare their “unchartered” car with the 36 “franchised” ones on the grid. “They don’t post what the pay is for each race, but the non-charters don’t get paid as much as the charter teams. It makes it a little harder to do everything you need to do. That’s the program they [NASCAR] put out, and it is what it is.”
For Whitt, the move to Premium is one that he admits is full of struggles. However, for what the team brings to the racetrack, he says they are satisfied for now.
“We don’t buy any tires,” Whitt said. “We ride around with scuff tires and stuff like that. We run the same cars and run motors for a while. We’re mileage-ing out as long as we possibly can. It’s just what we have to do to make ends meet. When you do that, it makes it pretty hard to outrun the guys that don’t do that.
“When it’s all said and done, I think we do pretty well for what we bring to the racetrack. It’s hard on you mentally because you want to run well. But it doesn’t mean because we run there that we settle for that. It’s mentally challenging. At the end of the day, you have to look back and realize what you’re racing with and against, what’s a good day and what’s not. You have to pick your battles and make the most of what you can.”
Whitt DNQ’d for the Daytona 500, along with the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The No. 98 car currently sits 36th in the owner standings while the No. 55 is 39th.