The Backstretch Blog: Dude where's my ride?
There is a troubling trend in NASCAR. The number of full-time rides and particularly good rides continues to decrease. Wednesday's announcement by Furniture Row racing that they are contracting back to a single car team is just the latest in the trend. Last season Roush/Fenway went from three cars to two, and as of yet there are no plans announced for two of Stewart Haas cars for next season or the Richard Childress number 27 car. The only new car being added for next season is the 12 at Penske.
The whole thing has several high profile drivers asking 'Dude, Where's My Ride?'
Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Landon Cassill, Danica Patrick, Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell all have no known plans for 2018. When you couple that with the number of known cars with seats open for 2018, it's easy to see the numbers don't add up. By my Missouri math there are no more than four rides available and at least seven drivers hoping to fill them (and that's not counting guys like Greg Biffle and Casey Mears who didn't have jobs this season but haven't closed the door on a possible return to cup).
"There's been a few other rides that were open that were good rides that got filled with other people," said Kenseth. "So, you know, I don't really know at this minute what's going to happen for next season."
It's pretty incredible when a former champion, who only once has missed out on what is now called the NASCAR postseason, can't find a ride for 2018. It's kind of a sad statement on where the sport is right now.
"You can't pay a driver $5 to $8 million dollars a year if you ain't got but $10 million worth of sponsorship. That ain't going to work," Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the media two months ago. "[Drivers] aren't getting $20, $30, $40 million a year on sponsorship. Owners aren't getting that anymore."
Which means young cheaper drivers are getting all the rides. But even if you don't demand top salary, the teams hiring are still far out number the number of drivers available. And it all comes back to those sponsorship dollars. Running a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup team is expensive. So even if, in the case of Wallace and the 43, team and driver want to work together. They can do it, without the money.
"Things with the 43 are still shaking out," Wallace told reporters at Chicagoland Speedway last month. " That is in RPM's hands right now. Obviously the news that came out the other day, they are pushing hard to fight through some things and I am supporting them. Nothing is set in stone. We are still trying to figure out what we need to do."