NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France joined with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owners in Charlotte Tuesday to announce a new charter system that will guarantee 36 teams a starting spot in all NASCAR races where points are awarded. Stewart-Haas Racing co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas praised the new business model in a press release, despite the fact that SHR only received three team charters which left the 41 team of Kurt Busch for the moment needing to qualify for races.
To compile the list of teams receiving charters, NASCAR looked at team participation for the past three years and Busch only joined SHR two years ago, when the 41 team was formed. The landmark long-term agreement was designed to provide teams with what France says is “an increased business certainty and the ability to work more closely with NASCAR to produce best-in-class racing.”
“Our sport is well positioned for growth and sustainability with this new charter agreement,” Stewart said in a statement. “I’m very proud of the work the teams and NASCAR have put into this new system, as many people have worked tirelessly to secure the health of our sport. Stronger communication, more team stability and shared goals equal a better product that we can showcase to our fans week in and week out.”
“This is an important day in the history of our sport that will benefit all constituents, immediately and in the long term,” Haas said. “As someone who has heavily invested in motorsports for many years, I’m very pleased with the industry’s commitment to sustainability, collaboration and long-term value.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing team of Carl Edwards and HScott Motorsports team of Michael Annett are in the same position as Busch. These organizations are expected to start shopping for charters since the number of participants in NASCAR Sprint Cup races will be cut from 43 to 40 which will leave only four open spots each week. The only way to obtain a charter is to buy one from an existing organization such as Michael Waltrip Racing, which closed its doors at the end of the 2015 season but was awarded two charters.
NASCAR teams take to the track later this week in preparation for running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 21. Drivers who are eligible for the Sprint Unlimited will kick off Speedweeks with practice Friday and the Unlimited will be run Saturday night. The first practice for the Daytona 500 will be Saturday with pole qualifying Sunday and the race a week later.
One Sprint Cup regular who will be missing from the track will be Stewart, who sustained a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident while vacationing on the West Coast. Stewart flew to North Carolina last Tuesday evening and was admitted to a Charlotte-area hospital for further evaluation before undergoing surgery on Wednesday. The team has not announced a replacement for Stewart but is expected to do so in the next few days.