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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Did You Notice?: NASCAR Ownership Remains on the Decline With 1 Exception

Did You Notice… Both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity series are struggling to bring in new ownership?

It’s a talking point that’s nothing new. But the hard numbers are jarring, especially in Xfinity, where ownership participation has declined 17% from last season alone. Just 49 cars have attempted at least one event through 29 Xfinity races, the lowest number in NASCAR’s playoff era. Just a decade earlier, in 2009, that total stood at 82.

A closer look at NASCAR’s top feeder series shows the ownership ranks have shrunk even more. Multi-car teams lead the way, even with underdogs, as a limited group of people is willing to dip their toe in NXS.

2019 NASCAR XFINITY SERIES MULTI-CAR TEAMS

4 cars: JD Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management

3 cars: B.J. McLeod Motorsports, DGM Racing*, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing*, RSS Racing

2 cars: Brandonbilt Motorsports*, Means Motorsports*, Richard Childress Racing*, SS Green Light Racing, Team Penske*

Close Collaborations: Stewart-Haas Racing and Biagi-Denbeste Racing, Mike Harmon Racing and Rick Ware Racing

* – includes part-time team(s) that have run at least one race

One-car teams: ACG Motorsports, GMS Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises (now partnered with MBM), H2 Motorsports, Jeremy Clements Racing, Pardus Racing Inc., Shepherd Racing Ventures, XCI Racing

The total number leaves roughly about 22 owners still contesting the series, filling a grid that will drop to 36 cars for 2020.

But that list is much smaller than it initially appears. Richard Childress Racing is rumored to close its Xfinity program altogether for 2020; Stewart-Haas Racing could dial back its schedule with Cole Custer if he moves to Cup. H2 Motorsports and XCI Racing, virtually the only two ownership adds this season, failed to complete their schedules after financial problems. GMS Racing is another one-car program that could disappear in 2020 without proper funding.

That leaves just three teams (JR Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske) running full-time efforts with direct ties to the Cup Series. (We’ll have to see how Chase Briscoe and Biagi-DenBeste Racing shake out.) Only one team, Kaulig Racing, is talking 2020 expansion with no new owners rumored on the horizon.

Contraction means the entry list should shrink along with the reduction to 36 cars. Several entries, like RSS Racing’s extra cars on occasion, will still start-and-park at the back for extra money. And the gap between the rich and poor is expected to grow even wider. We’ve seen that on display at tracks like Dover International Speedway last weekend where just 23 cars of 38 finished, only eight of them remaining on the lead lap.

The Cup Series side is suffering through a similar ownership problem. Its 47 cars to make at least one race attempt is on par with last year’s list. But consolidation among teams has led to a slight reduction in the owners fielding race cars.

2019 NASCAR CUP SERIES MULTI-CAR TEAMS

Four cars: Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rick Ware Racing*, Stewart-Haas Racing

Three cars: Front Row Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing*, Team Penske

Two cars: Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing*, JTG Daugherty Racing, Motorsports Business Management*, Premium Motorsports*, Roush Fenway Racing

One-car teams: Beard Motorsports, Gaunt Brothers Racing, Go FAS Racing, Leavine Family Racing (aligned with Gibbs), Richard Petty Motorsports (aligned with Childress), Spire Motorsports (aligned with Premium), Starcom Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing, Wood Brothers (aligned with Penske), XCI Racing

* – includes part-time team(s) that have run at least one race

That’s a total of 23 owners fighting for charters and spots on the grid each week. Of that group, two of the three newbies for 2019 (TBR, XCI) are part-timers who never got going due to financial problems. Four other single-car efforts are heavily aligned with larger teams that provide chassis and engine support. It leaves Go FAS (rumored to be partnering with SHR for 2020) and Starcom as the lone wolf single-car teams left standing.

There have been no new owners announced and no expansion plans prior to the Gen-7 car being introduced in 2021. Perhaps there will be some movement among the ownership ranks as teams sell off their Gen-6 models at bargain-basement prices. It’s a chance for a new manufacturer or organization to test the waters late in 2020, getting their feet wet in preparation for a full-time assault on the schedule in 2021.

But the fact remains, attracting new ownership into NASCAR remains a big problem. Only seven of 29 races this season have fielded a full 40 cars on the grid. The move to franchise ownership through charters has heavily discouraged others from dipping their toe in. Money for unchartered teams per race is far less. And the charters themselves have limited value. Furniture Row Racing’s championship-pedigree outfit sold its charter for a paltry $6 million on the way out the door.

Limited ownership provides limited opportunities for a sport still falling short on profitability. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., potentially Daniel Hemric and even Michael McDowell could be victims of this stagnation.

It’s a trend NASCAR might not attempt to fix until the Gen-7 car arrives in full force come February 2021. But they remain without a full-throated solution to what’s become their biggest problem.

One reason for optimism here before moving on: NASCAR’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series. While several 2019 teams initially announced as full-time efforts scaled back as the year went on, they’ve found themselves with an ownership increase. A slight bump in Trucks (from 56 to 58) have attempted at least one event compared to 2018. It’s the highest total among NASCAR’s top three series despite the smallest grid (32 spots).

What’s made the difference? Spec engines. Shorter races. Rules potentially being considered to eliminate pit stops down the road. The only way to convince new people to get involved is to show they’ll actually be able to at least break even … and be competitive in doing so. The Trucks are doing that and also benefit from greater parity (the top seven trucks in the owner’s championship technically come from seven different programs: GMS Racing, Niece Motorsports, Hattori Racing Enterprises, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Halmar-Friesen Racing, DGR-Crosley and Thorsport Racing).

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

  • The less that’s said about this fall’s Dover International Speedway race, the better. Keep in mind the track loses its postseason date in 2020. With two races in close proximity to each other (May, August) is this independent track being positioned to lose a race come 2021? They certainly didn’t make a case to keep both dates over the weekend.
  • Chase Elliott and Joey Logano out of title contention? Don’t be silly. Both are within seven points of the cutline heading to a race Elliott won at this spring. And Logano? He’s been victorious at Talladega Superspeedway three times and remains the reigning Cup champion. I feel like William Byron and Alex Bowman can be caught.
  • All the drama surrounding Kyle Busch and he’s still 48 points above the cutline heading to Talladega. Even a wreck there almost certainly won’t knock him out. That Dover race may have been uneventful (sixth) but it was crucial to stabilizing an uneven playoff performance. The Championship 4 is still within reach with their cushion if this team can just steady itself and knock off top-10 finishes down the stretch.
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About Tom Bowles

Tom Bowles
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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19 comments

  1. Avatar
    Sara Alejandra Gutierrez

    Amy I love ❤️ you have a nice day with dale junior and have a great time with Isla rose 🌹 though

  2. Avatar
    Sara Alejandra Gutierrez

    Dale junior I’m so sorry 😐 but I’m happy 😃 for you to be happy 😃 with Amy now though take care huh haha 😆

  3. Avatar
    Sara Alejandra Gutierrez

    Carl Edwards I’m a big fan of Yours so is my mom

  4. Avatar

    GERMAIN RACING IS LISTED AS A 2 CAR TEAM. WHAT OTHER CAR IS IN THEIR STABLE BESIDES THE #13?

    • Tom Bowles

      Hey John,

      Germain ran a second car one time this season, in the Daytona 500 with Casey Mears. It ended up connected to Premium as well, so it’s debatable, but I included it as a 2-car team with the second car running part-time.

      -Tom B.

  5. Avatar

    As far as bringing in new owners is concerned, that only helps if those owners are willing and able to put competitive cars on the track. There are already enough cars (more than enough, actually) that are almost guaranteed to finish multiple laps down every week. When Matt DiBenidetto (hope I got that right) was dropped by LFR, the reason so many fans were pulling for him is that he finally got a chance to show what he could do in better equipment, and it looked like he may not have had the option of finding a competitive ride for 2020. Luckily, it all worked out for him. We could use owners willing to put teams on the track capable of winning. We already have enough field-fillers.

  6. Avatar

    Look at the ages of the Cup series teams:

    Richard Childress, age 74, 2 teams
    Jack Roush, 77, 2
    Roger Penske, 82, 3
    Tony Stewart/Gene Haas, 48/67, 4
    Chip Ganassi, 61, 2
    Rick Hendrick, 70, 4
    Richard Petty, 82, 1
    Eddie Wood, 67, 1

    That is 8 organizations that account for 19 teams with an average age of all these owners being 70. These owners are not spring chickens. What happens when they decide they are done? Do they plans for their organizations to carry on or are they done?

    I believe these owners wanted the charter system so their years of ownership were potentially worth something when it was ready for them to get out. My grandfather had a saying, something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. So when these owners decide to retire and no one is willing to buy their charters then they are about worthless. So if I were these guys I would be ENCOURAGING new owners to come into the sport, otherwise they won’t have anybody to sell to.

    • Avatar

      Also, Joe Gibbs is 78, but he has his kids to take over. Childress could pass it on to the Dillon clan (LOL). I would think Penske and Hendrick have ascension plans for their vast empires. But the others who knows. Wasn’t there a story a few months back about a major team folding at the end of this season? Certainly sponsorship/TV money will play a big roll in the future of who survives and who doesn’t. Can’t see how there will be enough outside new money for anyone new to run a top level team.

      • Avatar

        Seems I’ve read – what may be no more than rumors – about Jeff Gordon taking over from Hendrick when he decides to hang it up.

        Indycar has a 22 year old team owner that won 2 races with his 18 year old rookie driver in 2019 – which were not fluke wins. The team showed up prepared with fast cars, and the driver has a ton of talent. There should be no reason we don’t start seeing stories like this in NASCAR. A “changing of the guard” has to be coming soon, these guys won’t live forever. NASCAR best be prepared.

  7. Avatar

    When the charters were first announced I wrote it was just another of Brian’s money grabs and some people disagreed.. He’s got his money and can spend it on rehab and doesn’t care about the consequences of all the improvements he’s made.

  8. Avatar

    What about Venturini in Xfinity

    • Avatar

      Nascar started declining when Dale SR passed away nascar tried several things to make it interesting but with the high price for tickets and so on people that use to watch the Earnhardt and Gordon and Wallace so on has quit going and watching races nascar races are boring any more people don’t like stage racing it’s not the same you will see more and more people not going to the races with all these rule changes people is getting more interesting in dirt racing not expensive to go watch dirt racing Nascar has let fans down Brian France can care less it’s all about making them rich

  9. Avatar
    Sara Alejandra Gutierre

    I am a Carl Edwards fan

  10. Avatar

    Two points: (1) Those men who own the multicar teams are wealthy in their own right. They aren’t doing this just for their egos. They are making significant amount of money or they would be elsewhere.
    (2) Why would they want more owners in the sport so that they have to divide the pie even more.

    In short it is in lot of peoples interest to keep ownership limited to as small a group as possible.

  11. Avatar
    Sara Alejandra Gutierrez

    I’m just wonder that Jimmie Johnson well reiterating from nascar

  12. Avatar

    Its down right comical. I want to start a multi car cup team so in addition to the investment in real estate, technology, equipment and personal, I have to pay 5 to 6 mil per car for a charter? Genius!

  13. Avatar

    Nothing reduces costs like economies of scale. That is why team ownership is getting more concentrated. Of course historically they haven’t used those economies of scale to save money, they just spend it somewhere else.

    While I can go either way on the charter system. I think it has had less effect on field size than the fact that sponsorship money has evaporated. Resulting from fewer asses in the seats and on TV as a result of the stupid decisions NASCAR has made (driving away their core fans) and ever changing entertainment demographics.

    Dover doesn’t have a monopoly on boring races or small crowds. Just sayin’.

    I am sure I could come up with a finishing order at Talladega that would knock Kyle Busch out of the top 8. It would involve him wrecking in the first stage and coming in last place. Combined with other chase guys finishing in the top 10 in both stages and final running order.

  14. Avatar

    Very interesting article. Brian France had the nerve to say the charter system would encourage new ownership in The series. It has in reality discouraged it. I saw that coming when they announced it. And then when they announced that non-charter teams would race for less money what did they think would happen? I’m not against the charter system but I don’t see how it has improved the sport in anyway. At least from a fan’s point of view. I can well understand why the owners wanted it. Guarantees are always nice. Big Bill and Bill Jr. would have never allowed it to happen.

    One topic everyone has avoided talking about is the attendance at the Xfinity and truck series races. It’s obvious that the tv money is keeping these two series alive. I cannot believe that when the new tv contract is negotiated that a lot of that tv money will remain. In fact unless the tv ratings for the Cup Series improve I’m not sure they’ll get the same deal. Like they say “it’s all about the Benjamin’s “. The question is can NASCAR reduce owner costs enough to encourage new people to invest in the sport’s three divisions? Time will tell.