Jayski is reporting via a Sports Business Journal article by Michael Smith that General Motors is cutting factory support in both the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series as the automaker goes through the restructuring process under chapter 11.
Earlier this year, GM cut back a third of its sponsorships, and more cuts could be coming. SBJ quoted a GM official as saying:
Chevy’s (and GM’s) involvement in racing is a sound business decision that translates directly into the sale of cars and trucks. It is essential; however, that we continue to look at every penny we spend as General Motors takes the necessary steps to become a leaner company with a significantly stronger balance sheet. While Chevy Racing is talking to its business partners about ways to reduce cost and maximize the return on investment, it is our policy to not talk about the details of business relationships with our partners.
The cuts are likely to have the most affect on the larger teams, including Rusty Wallace Inc, JR Motorsports, and Kevin Harvick Inc. I would think, however, that a team like JR Motorsports wouldn’t be as affected because of their alliance with Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick would more than likely be able to continue on without much trouble considering they have the financial backing of being in the Sprint Cup Series.
I’m not sure if there is any alliance between Kevin Harvick Inc. and Richard Childress Racing. Thus, that team is more likely to be affected by this development. And, Rusty Wallace Inc has no affiliation with any Cup team, so they are the most likely to be hit by this. The smaller teams in Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series will be unaffected, as they don’t usually receive factory support. The smaller teams in the Cup series, however, could be affected.
I think that this development may force the larger Chevy teams out of Nationwide and into Sprint Cup. JRM owner Dale Earnhardt Jr has hinted that he was contemplating a move to Sprint Cup due to the high cost of fielding Nationwide cars. Add in the recent success of Stewart Haas Racing, and it might be an attractive option for his team. KHI has never given any indication that the team was considering Sprint Cup, but the lack of factory support may force them into NASCAR’s biggest series. RWI’s owner Rusty Wallace has a contract with ABC and ESPN that forbids him from owning a Sprint Cup team, so he’s not likely to move.
But, if JRM and KHI were to move, we might see some of the smaller Sprint Cup teams get forced out of NASCAR. If you think about it, four of NASCAR’s largest (four or more cars) teams (Hendrick, Childress, Roush Fenway Racing, and Richard Petty Motorsports) account for 17 cars. The leaves 26 spots open on a given race weekend. If you add in three-car teams (Michael Waltrip Racing, Penske Championship Racing, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (including the No. 34) and Joe Gibbs Racing), that number shrinks from 26 to 14. Now, if you factor in competitive two car teams (Stewart Haas Racing, Yates Racing, Red Bull Racing), that leaves eight spots open.
If KHI and JRM move into the sport, assuming they left their operations in tact, that would be an additional two cars. This is assuming that JRM would only bring Brad Keselowski’s car and KHI would bring Kelly Bires’ car into the series. That would leave six spots open on a given weekend in the Sprint Cup series. Five if you include Robby Gordon, a car capable of getting in the top 35 in owner’s points.
If GM’s decision leads to those two teams moving up to the Cup series, it could mean the end of the little guy (or at least make it much more difficult to make each race) in the Sprint Cup Series. And to think, we didn’t even talk about some of the teams expanding (SHR), which would eat up more spots in the series.
Affected teams responded to the news:
Kevin Harvick Inc issued a statement saying:
Although this will require some internal restructuring, our commitment to our sponsors to provide the best possible product on the race track will not change.
JR Motorsports said:
We have been proud supporters of the Chevrolet brand our entire lives and don’t anticipate that ever changing. We are fully capable of adjusting our business model to accommodate this change, and with the backing of Hendrick Motorsports, we will continue to lend our full support to Chevrolet.