(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Did You Notice?: BK Racing NASCAR Sale Underwhelming Compared To Other Sports

Did You Notice? … How little a NASCAR sale of a charter is worth? After months of bids, a North Carolina court revealed the winning bid for BK Racing in bankruptcy court was $2.08 million. Front Row Motorsports will take over the charter and most other assets; two other teams purchased other, small portions to raise the total to $2.38 million.

If it holds (the judge has granted until Thursday, Aug. 23 for possible objections) it’s the most detailed insight yet as to how much a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team is worth. It’s the most public sale of an organization since the sport moved to the current charter system in 2016.

Let’s compare that price to the latest sale of a franchise in other major sports.

NBA: Houston Rockets ($2.2 billion) – Tilman Fertitta, 2017

MLB: Miami Marlins ($1.2 billion) – ownership group led by Bruce Sherman, 2017-18

NFL: Carolina Panthers ($2.275 billion) – David Tepper, 2018

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes ($420 million) – Tom Dundon, 2018

MLS: D.C. United (partial investor) – Patrick Soon-Sheong, 2018, team valued at $500 million

That’s a stark difference for NASCAR compared to other, longstanding franchise systems. The attorney for trustee Matthew Smith even voiced his disappointment more money wasn’t raised for the sale. The value is literally .09 percent (that’s not a misprint – one-tenth of one percent) of either the NBA or NFL price fetched above.

What’s worse for BK Racing is that liabilities against the organization, per court filings, are well over $44 million. Just the IRS claim alone for $2.9 million won’t be covered by money raised from the sale. That means BK’s creditors will never fully recover the monies owed from years of stockpiling debt.

Why this sale is important, beyond the basic changes in NASCAR ownership ranks, is timing. We’re in the middle of a potential NASCAR sale where the sport’s CEO was arrested for driving under the influence and additional drug charges. Wall Street is trying to place a valuation on a sport whose financial figures have been trending downward aside from its impressive television deal.

If the cost to get a guaranteed spot on the NASCAR grid is just $2.08 million, what does this mean for the valuation as a whole? One could argue, of course, teams don’t need the charter to make races under the current system. Four spots are available each week for any team to qualify with a car that meets Cup Series specifications. With only two DNQs total this year, any owner with a team doesn’t have a high bar to qualify. So why pay $2 million for a guaranteed spot, especially to buy equipment that has just three top-20 finishes all year?

But the data point, despite that reasoning, looks terrible by comparison. Combined with the France arrest, there are millions hanging in the balance while the inner house inspection goes on regarding NASCAR’s finances. It also shows how tenuous the business model can be for a now-former team owner like Ron Devine looking to break into the sport. It took just seven years for him to rack up $40+ million in debt while never becoming even semi-competitive.

Most importantly, a sale like this one leaves the future of several employees hanging in the balance. It’s uncertain at this point whether Front Row would run a team in 2019 or simply sell the charter to someone else. Even if they did expand, would all of BK Racing’s employees be kept on board? As we wrote about Monday, there’s a small group of loyalists who did nothing wrong here. Their crime was simply to work for an organization that couldn’t stay financially viable.

Let’s hope there’s the happiest ending possible here. But like those disappointed faces in the courtroom, it’s hard to put a smiley face on this sale.

Did You Notice? … Once Elliott Sadler retires at the end of the season, just four NASCAR drivers in the sport’s top three series can say they ran a Cup race with Dale Earnhardt?

They are: Kurt Busch (2000-01), Ryan Newman (2000) and Matt Kenseth (1998-2001). Start-and-parker Morgan Shepherd technically qualifies as well although he hasn’t even finished a race since 2015.

It’s clear, then, with Earnhardt’s son also retired, the sport is losing its connection with that era of competition. Millennial fans 25 or younger were a max of eight years old upon Earnhardt’s death in February 2001; most of them weren’t even born.

So what would we call this current era of NASCAR racing? Who would we say has the drawing power that Earnhardt had in his prime? I would argue that, right now, the sport doesn’t have one and that’s a problem. Kyle Busch is certainly a draw and a polarizing figure. Jimmie Johnson has a fair amount of popularity (but limited national crossover). Chase Elliott won to the cheers of a sellout crowd this month but doesn’t have the resume yet.

Who is going to step up in the wake of all these drivers retiring? It’s a question we’ve asked many times the past few years and we’re still awaiting NASCAR’s next great star. In order for the sport to fully transition, putting the Earnhardt era behind them, they need an answer.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off….

  • We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Jeremy Clements‘ impressive underdog win at Road America. But one of the XFINITY Series’ longtime underdogs hasn’t been able to harness more momentum. He heads into this race without a top-five finish since.
  • Everyone is interested in how Bill Elliott will do stepping behind the wheel of GMS Racing’s No. 23 car this weekend at Road America. But let’s temper expectations for one of the sport’s best drivers. This NASCAR Hall of Famer, now 62 years old, hasn’t earned a top-10 finish in any series since 2004. His two road course victories came way back in 1983 & 1993, respectively; they were never his strong suit in what was otherwise an outstanding career. Simply completing the race inside the top 20 would be an incredible accomplishment considering the circumstances.
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The author of Bowles-Eye View (Mondays) and Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 30 staff members as its majority owner. Based in Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild.

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14 comments

  1. Avatar

    Kind of puts the whole “sport” into perspective doesn’t it. That said it appears, big word that, that the mega teams, HMS, JGR, SHR and Penske are doing very well. But I doubt if anyone will be able to grow and join them.

  2. Avatar

    What would the value of Hendrick be if he decided to sell and what does the evaluation include?

    • Avatar
      Racing in Mississauga

      Might be shockingly low, perhaps less than $60 million. Certainly as TV ratings and attendance continue to fall, the selling price of the Hendrick team will not even come close to the wacky value of $400 million assigned to the team by Forbes at one time. Joe Gibbs would also be very concerned about the team value question given that as his age, he may wish to retire as might other elderly owners such as Petty, Roush, Childress, and Penske.

      • Avatar

        Doubt if any of those owners will sell when they retire. They will have, like most mid sized businesses a succession plan in place.

  3. Avatar

    Unless they get a bigger share of TV money, NASCAR Cup series charters will never come close to being as valuable as “stick and ball” franchises. Those leagues all have revenue sharing deals that funnel big bucks to even the dregs of the league. These franchises either own or have long-term leases to the buildings where they play that come with more revenue streams (PSLs, suites, concessions, etc.) and exclusive TV deals with regional sports providers (e.g YES, NESN, SNY). NASCAR team owners don’t own or control any of the venues in which they race and the track owners get the bulk of the TV dollars. NASCAR (the sanctioning body) gets the bulk of the blame, but in my opinion its the track owners (ISC/SMI) that are the biggest obstacles to significant schedule change and or competitive balance. Additionally, they have more revenue streams than the team owners (concerts, festivals, driving schools, other racing series). The track owners need to step up to the plate more than NASCAR in my opinion at this point.

    • Avatar

      You over look two key points. (1) who owns the bulk of the tracks? If you combine the TV revenue for Nascar and the Nascar owned tracks they do quite nicely dont they? (2) The “stick and ball” sports are an association of teams, headed by a commissioner whose job is to promote the sport and do whats in the best interest of the owners and the sport. Nascar is a family owned business whose goal is to generate revenue for the family. A huge difference.

    • Avatar

      Yep all good points. Buying a NASCAR charter is like buying a mailbox without having a house. In order to use it you have to spend another $500,000 to build the house. Once you buy a team in one of the other sports you have bought the house. After that buying the mailbox is small potatoes.
      A NASCAR charter is a bill for 40 million dollars or more (if you want to be competitive).

      • Avatar

        The whole house of cards that is nascar is built on using somebody elses money. And its a money making machine as long as their are people willing to give you their money.
        Yet as the money of people willing to hand over their money drops times begin to get harder. Then the business to business relationships become more valuable. Even so the cardinal rule is don’t spend your own money.

      • Avatar

        And what is the goal of buying a nascar charter? Is it to stroke your ego by winning a race or two, something that not many of your buddies care about? Perhaps if you only have one. But when you have multiple charters you’re about something else. Can’t be much other than making money can it?

        • Avatar

          Once upon a time there were many more cars showing up to qualify than there were spots in the field. Charters were supposed to guarantee a spot in the field for those teams with them which in turn was supposed to make it easier to attract sponsors (in theory). Of course it was all based on the way things were during the boom years. That was the goal of the charters. If there is ever a time when 5 more cars show up than there are spots in the field and ratings start going up attracting sponsors, then the charters will matter again. If you want all four of your cars a guaranteed spot in the field and sponsors to know their car will be in the race, then you need multiple charters (again, in theory). And well, duh, yeah, this is America, everything is about making money so what’s your point? Do you think these guys want to invest millions of dollars and not see a return on that investment?

  4. Avatar

    The part about the figure of 2.08 million is about what to expect for BK racing. Front row paid 2 million for the 83 charter when they bought it. How much was BK worth besides their charter.

    They 23 owner point standings
    2018-34th
    2017-35th
    2016-33rd
    This is a team that has never had a high standing and that effects the charter value. Race revenue is part based of the charter avera over the last 3 years. So that makes their average finished 34th of the charters.

    Second is how secure the charter even is to have for a new team. Under the charter rules if that charter finishes in the bottom 3 for 3 straight seasons, NASCAR can take away the charter. Unless The 23 manages to get up to 33rd in points this year, then it will have been in the bottom 3 spots for 2 years and must finish 33rd or better next year. Some of the team that may have been interested in it (I.e. StarCom racing) that don’t have a charter, that may not be possible to do.

    None of the established teams look to be expanding for next year. (Roush, Petty, RCR, Funiture Row have dropped teams). And the 44 charter for Petty and 3rd Front Row charter have to be used in 2019 or sold, Plus RCR has 1 more season they can lease a charter before has to be used or sold. That means 3 charters are already possibly for sale.

    BK has run 520 races with 3 top 10s. How much is the majority of the equipment worth. They got about 380,000 for their Inventory. (Front Row already has some equipment as they have run 3 teams before and if going to run the team will most likely switch the 23 to Fords to work with the 34/38.

    And for value to other sports, Most Sports teams have revenue based on the stadium/arena they play in. And even some of the bad sports teams are still good at selling merchandise for revenue. How much merchandise revenue can a team like BK get when they have a assortment of drivers through the season.

  5. Avatar

    Apples and oranges. You cannot compare a racing team to a stick and ball team. The governing body in the stick and ball team is composed of the owners of the teams. Not so with NASCAR.

    In what other entertainment venue do those who put on the show have to pay for the “privilege” of participating? NASCAR takes money from everyone involved with a “team”, from the driver to the pit crews.

    Does Tom Cruise pay to act in a movie? Does Lebran James pay admission to get in the arena?

  6. Avatar

    If I remember correctly, I read an article a few years back about a team essentially auctioning off all their equipment for very little return. I’m not fan of charters but its probably alot better than what it was like before then. At least teams will get some value from their charters when they decide to leave the sport.

    I also agree that comparing Nascar charters to NFL or NBA teams is apples and oranges. When someone purchases an NFL/NBA team, they already have an instant revenue stream in place by having a home presence and home games half the season. There is no such thing as home game for any Nascar team. So values are certainly going to be a lot less.

    • Avatar

      Not sure it really matters if you buy a charter for 2 million and sell it for 2 million. I dont think the residual value of the equipment is effected by the charter.
      But hey what do I know.