NASCAR charts a new course


Steve Mickey


By Steve Mickey

NASCAR Columnist

Daytona International Speedway opened its gates this past weekend for the beginning of the 2016 Sprint Cup season and with it a new way in which the sanctioning body and teams will be doing business. After months of collaboration between NASCAR and the owners, 36 teams were awarded charters that will provide those teams with an increased business certainty.

Those teams that were awarded charters are guaranteed a spot on the starting grid of every Sprint Cup race regardless of where they qualify. The charter runs for nine years and it also gives each team new revenue opportunities including greater interest in the ever growing digital operations of the sport.

Team owners are now more like those of the stick and ball sports in that they actually have a say in the running of the sport. This new relationship between NASCAR and the owners will increase the value of each team and since the charters run for nine years it will allow owners the opportunity to develop a long-term plan for their organizations knowing that they now have a say in the participation, governance and economics of the sport.

Teams were awarded Charters based on their participation over the last three seasons. Only those teams that competed in the sport full-time during the three-year span were awarded Charters. Teams that did not receive one of the Charters could obtain one if they could find an owner that was willing to sell one of their own.

Two Charters have already been sold for this season and you may be surprised that Joe Gibbs Racing bought one for Carl Edwards’ team and Stewart-Haas Racing bought one for Kurt Busch. Both of the Charters were bought from Rob Kauffman who had the Charters as principal owner of Michael Waltrip Racing which ceased operations at the end of the 2015 season.

Those teams that will start the season without a Charter will face the prospect of having to qualify for one of the four spots available at each stop of the schedule with no safety net to fall back on after a poor qualifying effort. The non-Charter teams that want to race full time in the sport will face a struggle as there is no way they can obtain a Charter based on performance and NASCAR has said that it will keep the number of Charters awarded at thirty-six.

DAYTONA NEWS: Rookie Chase Elliott got his career started off on the right track as he became the youngest driver ever to win the pole for the 58th Annual Daytona 500. Chase and his father Bill Elliott becomes the fourth father-son duo to win the 500 pole joining Richard and Kyle Petty, Bobby and Davey Allison and Dale Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Elliott who takes over the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the newly retired Jeff Gordon posted a speed of 196.314 mph. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth took the outside pole with a speed of 194.036 mph. Those two drivers were the only two of the 44 that attempted to qualify who were locked into their starting spot after qualifying. The remaining field will be set by the finishing order of the two Can-Am Duel 150’s that will be held this Thursday night. Non-Charter drivers Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto were locked into the starting lineup of the 500 after qualifying by posting the two fastest speeds of the seven Non-Charter drivers that attempted to qualify on Sunday.

RACE PURSES: Since the new Charter system guarantees revenue to teams this season, NASCAR will no longer post a driver’s winnings after a race. Race winnings have been posted for over six decades but nowthe guaranteed revenues will be based on a team entering each race and their performance over the past three seasons plus a points fund that will see an increase this season.

Race Preview:

Event: Daytona 500

Track: Daytona International Speedway (2.5 mile tri-oval with 31o of banking in the turns)

Date: February 21, 1 p.m.

TV: FOX

Radio: MRN

Defending Champion: Joey Logano

Steve Mickey
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