Prior to Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway, NASCAR team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. expressed interest in making the move from Xfinity to the Cup Series. He explained at the time that discussions were taking place internally, but now he has provided a major update. Earnhardt said that acquiring a charter is the “only obstacle” standing in the way.
The Hall of Fame inductee made the comments during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Earnhardt said that he is hearing some interesting details about the Next Gen car and its operating costs. Specifically, he said some comments made it seem like running a Truck Series team and a Cup Series team could cost roughly the same amount of money while the Xfinity Series could become the most expensive.
“[The charter] is the only roadblock,” Earnhardt said to SiriusXM. “I mean, the way they are talking about this new car, it’s going to be more expensive to be in the Xfinity Series than it would be to be in the Cup Series. I don’t see how that’s really possible. The numbers that you hear — as far as what the new car in the Cup Series is going to cost and what it should cost to run it — sound very conservative and very positive, too good to be true. But we will have to wait and see. Hopefully, they are right.”
A Limited Number of Available Charters Reportedly Caused a Price Increase
Midway through the 2021 NASCAR regular season, there are 36 charters and only four “open” spots in the 40-car field each week. These teams could compete each week, but there is also a scenario where they don’t qualify for the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, or any number of the races on the Cup Series schedule. Having a charter guarantees a spot in the field, as well as a portion of NASCAR’s profits.
While Earnhardt expressed interest in acquiring a charter and moving JR Motorsports to the Cup Series, he may not have the opportunity to achieve this goal. The primary reason is cost. Teams will not divulge the amount that they paid to acquire charters due to non-disclosure agreements, but there are available estimates after Kaulig Racing purchased two from Spire Motorsports in June.
“I heard $10 million, is that what you heard?” Earnhardt said to Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press. “I’m not paying that.” The JRM co-owner added that he doesn’t have a business or a foundation to make major moves like Kaulig Racing owner Matt Kaulig, founder of LeafFilter. Instead, JRM has to “be a little more clever.”
Earnhardt may have heard a price of $10 million, but 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin shut down the notion that he and Michael Jordan spent that much prior to the 2020 season. He told Fryer that they “made a hell of an investment” but clarified that the current NASCAR model requires teams to find sponsors that can provide a considerable amount of money to help them compete.
One Charter Could Become Available After the 2021 Season
While there are a limited number of charters available, especially after Trackhouse Racing purchased all of Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR operations, Earnhardt and JRM could have the opportunity to acquire one based on the outcome of the season. Rick Ware Racing currently fields four cars with its charters. The team owns three outright, but the fourth actually belongs to Richard Petty Motorsports.
According to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, NASCAR could repossess the charter based on how Rick Ware Racing finishes the season. If the team finishes among the worst three in points, NASCAR could take back the charter. Although the sanctioning body could let Richard Petty Motorsports sell the charter if there is a buyer. According to Pockrass, many parties are expressing interest.
There are many “what-ifs” in play, but Earnhardt could potentially purchase the charter from RPM and field a Cup Series car in 2022 to coincide with the release of the Next Gen car. Of course, the price and availability will directly play a role in any decision.