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The Underdog House: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Think Small

While Silly Season didn’t impact the bigger teams much, it’s gotten downright ridiculous among the smaller teams as 2016 draws to a close.  Charters have become a hot commodity, and apparently, some teams are willing to negotiate that particular item.  Tommy Baldwin Racing has reportedly already sold its Charter to Leavine Family Racing, which raced as a combined effort with Circle Sport, who has a charter.  There have been rumblings that Go FAS Racing will sell its charter and take the money rather than risk NASCAR revoking it if they don’t improve performance.  Premium Motorsports will get its charter back from the No. 46 team for 2017; whether it will also go to the highest bidder or remain with the team remains to be seen.  HScott Motorsports has been rumored to be contemplating its future after the departure of both its drivers and sponsors. BK Racing hasn’t announced any plans for 2017.  JTG Daugherty is solidifying plans to expand to two teams, so will be in the market for one of those charters, along with the new No. 77 for Erik Jones and Furniture Row Racing.

Just take a look at the question marks in this group; for those counting, there are just two teams here whose plans are both stable and unchanged:

No. 7, Tommy Baldwin Racing: Has sold charter and owner Baldwin told employees that the the future is uncertain.  May run as open team in 2017.

No. 13, Germain Racing: Rumor has driver Casey Mears being replaced by Ty Dillon.  Sponsor GEICO could bail and go with Mears, making him a fairly valuable driver.

Nos. 15 and 46, HScott Motorsports: HSM owns just one charter, and the other goes back to Premium Motorsports.  Team may close and sell charter to Furniture Row Racing.

No. 21, Wood Brothers Racing: No major changes planned; may acquire charter through sale.

(Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)
For Wood Brothers Racing, 2017 looks to be more of the same, but for Germain Racing and many others, not so much. (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker/NKP)

Nos. 23 and 83, BK Racing: No plans have been announced; David Ragan has said he’s looking at options as he’s not signed.

No. 30, The Motorsports Group: Has said they will race in 2017, does not currently hold a charter.

No. 32, Go FAS Racing: Has been rumored to be shopping its charter and have not announced driverplans for 2017. Sponsor Can-Am has extended for a partial schedule through 2018, so they may continue as an open team if charter is sold.

No. 33, Circle Sport: Has a charter and will reportedly split from Leavine Family Racing after 2016.  No driver or sponsor has been announced; speculation has included Michael McDowell or Casey Mears.

Nos. 34 and 38, Front Row Motorsports: Chris Buescher is expected to race for FRM again in 2017 with continued technical support from Roush Fenway Racing, but that could change if Greg Biffle leaves RFR and the No. 16 opens up. Neither the team nor Landon Cassill have announced 2017 plans regarding the No. 38.

No. 47, JTG Daugherty Racing: No changes announced for No. 47.  Team is working to add a second team for 2017 but sponsor and driver have yet to be named.

Nos. 55 and 98, Premium Motorsports: The No. 55 could keep its charter after it’s returned from the No. 46 team’s lease, or it could sell for an influx of cash. Have not announced 2017 plans for drivers or teams.

No. 95, Leavine Family Racing: Will race in 2017 with its own charter.  It’s been speculated that Casey Mears could drive, especially if he brings current sponsor GEICO with him. The team has said they’d like to keep Michael McDowell but needs a sponsor.

Top of the Class: Phoenix II

Ryan Blaney was the best of the small-team drivers this week with an eighth-place run at Phoenix.  All in all, Blaney scored a pair of top-10’s at Phoenix this season, the No. 21 team’s first since 2002 when Elliott Sadler finished tenth in what was then the only race of the season at the track.  Equally impressive: Wood Brothers Racing had not competed at Phoenix since 2011, and just once since 2008.  Sure they get some information from Team Penske, but the ability to learn the track so quickly bodes well for the future. AJ Allmendinger had a steady run Sunday, starting 18th and finishing 17th.  If Allmendinger can cap off the season with a top 20 at Homestead, he’ll carry some positive momentum into 2017. Casey Mears also scored a top 20, finishing 18th.  His Germain racing team had decent speed and used sound strategy to put Mears in good position. This is the kind of finish the team should have had consistently in 2016, but at least they’re ending on a good note, and Mears has been decent at Homestead in the past (he’d have had his first Cup win there had there not been an unncessarydebris caution in the closing laps), so he’s got a chance to go out with a bang, at least. Finally, Landon Cassill looked strong on Sunday, gaining eight positions during the race to score a top-20.

Passing Grades

Clint Bowyer really has brought his HScott Motorsports team up a level this season—24th may not be where Bowyer is capable of running, but the team wasn’t capable of running where Bowyer has taken them a year ago.  Bowyer should be proud of his efforts as he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing next year.  A week after sitting out for a concussion, Matt DiBenedetto drove his BK Racing car to a 25th-place finish, which, while not spectacular, is decent for a team which has struggled from the start with equipment that’s a step behind the competition. More evidence that HScott Motorsports has stepped it up this year is Michael Annett’s 26th-place run.  While Annett hasn’t been consistently strong as Bowyer has been in the second half, he has had some moments, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle next year in a top XFINITY Series ride with JR Motorsports.

Needs Improvement

Yes, Regan Smith finished just one spot behind Annett on Sunday, but the difference is that he and his team haven’t shown the kind of improvement in 2016 that they should have.  Despite the addition of veteran Smith and the skill of team owner Tommy Baldwin along with an equipment upgrade, the team never quite took that next step.  Whether or not they’ll be around in 2017 is still a question mark.  David Ragan hasn’t had the impact on BK Racing that Bowyer has had on HSCott Motorsports, though he’s had some strong runs for sure.  His 31st-place finish Sunday was a few ticks below what he’s capable of.  Chris Buescher fought a tight car on Sunday, but it was a flat tire and unscheduled pit stop that really hurt him and sealed his 32nd-place finish. Jeffrey Earnhardt finished 33rd, about the run that his fans should have expected. DJ Kennington finished 35th in his Cup debut, one spot ahead of teammate Reed Sorenson, and again, that’s par for the course for Premium Motorsports. Gray Gaulding came home 37th in his second Cup race, but like Kennington, it’s hard to judge his performance as it’s similar to where Josh Wise finished in the No. 30 for much of the year.

In the News

Wood Brothers Racing moves into the team’s new digs in Mooresville, North Carolina this week.  The shop is closer to technical partner Team Penske.  According to a FOX Sports report, the team also plans to extend driver Ryan Blaney’s contract for 2017.

Leavine Family Racing said earlier this week that they’re looking for sponsorship after the departure of Thrivent Financial.  The team has said it would like to keep driver Michael McDowell, but they’ll need backing for next year.

Matt DiBenedetto will run the No. 49 Toyota at Homestead instead of his usual 83.  The number comes from video game sponsor NASCAR Heat to advertise a special 449.99 holiday price for the game.

Say anything:

When you realize your hotel might be overbooked:

A few random thoughts:

Suddenly his teammate’s hotel conundrum doesn’t look so bad…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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2 thoughts on “The Underdog House: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes”

  1. ..Oh dear lord…reading this article I totally forgot that Bowyer was even racing, let alone running. Wow, that’s not good. He and the other Goobers in a Ford next year…that sucks. And I like Bowyer from when I remember him running, but he is with the Devil Team now…no Exorcist can help. IMO.

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