CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR announced a dramatic overhaul of its business model Tuesday, shifting to a franchise-like system intended to provide actual value and financial stability to team owners after decades of heavy reliance on sponsors.
The change gets away from the independent contractor model that had been used since NASCAR's 1948 inception. A car owner was responsible for all the financial obligations to race each week, depending on sponsorship to help foot the bills. When a sponsor pulled its funding, a car owner could go broke.
"This is a very complicated agreement to sort out, with 60 years of history doing business in a certain way," NASCAR chairman Brian France said. "To restructure things in the manner that we did was a very tall order to accomplish."
Michael Waltrip Racing had nothing but old cars, used equipment and a building to sell when it closed its doors in November. Now MWR has two of the 36 coveted "charters" and can sell them to the highest bidder. A charter guarantees revenue and a position in what will now be a 40-car Sprint Cup field for each race, down from 43.
MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman, the architect of the Race Team Alliance group that brokered the deal with NASCAR, indicated his two charters will be sold before the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 21. One is expected to go to Joe Gibbs Racing for Carl Edwards' car, the other to Stewart-Haas Racing for Kurt Busch.
"I think what we've done here is, now we've put the teams on a more stable footing," Kauffman said. "I think it really allows the teams to invest for the future."
Every organization can have up to four charters, but only if it attempted every race since 2013. Busch and Edwards both drive for recently added teams.
Kauffman estimated the current worth of a charter at less than $10 million.
Among the teams left out was the Wood Brothers, which will field a full-time entry this year for Ryan Blaney. He will have to qualify every week for one of the four open slots in the field.