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Denny Hamlin is Not Optimistic About the Charter Negotiations

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

On the most recent episode of his podcast, “Actions Detrimental”, Denny Hamlin opened up about the Daytona weekend drama surrounding charters. In it, Hamlin offered a pessimistic take on the current status, and he broke down exactly what happened at Daytona last weekend regarding charters.’

  • This past weekend at Daytona, NASCAR and the race teams sang very different tunes about the status of the charter agreement. Steve Phelps went on the NASCAR RaceDay on Fox and said that he feels a deal is “Close” and that a deal will get done. The owners, on the other hand, consulted with experienced antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.
  • The charter agreement has been simmering in the background of all NASCAR activities for months. If the teams and NASCAR do not reach a deal by the end of the year, there is potential for a split between NASCAR and the team owners.
  • Fans are anxious to see a deal get done, and many hang on to what Denny Hamlin says regarding charters. Since he is a team owner, he is involved in many of these conversations between team owners.

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What Happened at Daytona?

NASCAR Declines the Invite

Denny Hamlin did confirm that there was a meeting between the team owners held at Daytona, and Jim France, NASCAR’s CEO, was specifically invited to the meeting. France did not show up, and Hamlin was not happy with that move.

It’s disappointing certainly. I can’t think of a league or an owner of a league or a commissioner that would decline meeting with his team owners. That’s very disappointing, and all I think the teams are wondering is [France] said no over and over and over to us. We’re just looking for an explanation of why, and we haven’t got that why yet other than it just is.

Denny Hamlin

Jared Allen, co-host did answer by explaining the difference between NASCAR’s CEO and commissioners in other sports. Other sports commissioners work for the owners, while in NASCAR, the owners essentially work for the CEO.

Still, given the dispute, it’s understandable why Hamlin would be upset here. He and the owners are inviting NASCAR to the table, but, NASCAR is declining for whatever reason. What the reason is and how legitimate it is, we do not know, but, it doesn’t help the feelings of the team owners.

The Hiring of Jeffrey Kessler

Hamlin also elaborated on why the teams decided to bring in Jeffrey Kessler. Hamlin described it as “protection”

Hiring Jeffrey [Kessler” is a big step for the owners, but I think a lot of it is just protection for the team owners. Obviously, there’s a lot of language and so much red tape when it comes to Charter agreements and whatnot that you just got to make sure that you’ve got all the protection that you need because this is a big deal. Charter agreement is big deal to us. This has just been a roller coaster ride over the last however many years you’ve been

Denny Hamlin

Now, it’s tough to know exactly what Hamlin means by “protection”, but we can read between the lines a little bit here. Many of the team owners have complained about how slow the charter agreement has taken to get right.

Look at 23XI Racing’s Cirtus Polk saying, “There is no give and take” between them and NASCAR last weekend at Daytona. Jeff Gordon even complained about how slow the negotiations have been, and how little progress has been made. Hamlin even said in this podcast that they, “Can’t get their feet out of the mud”. Essentially, the situation seems to have reached a stalemate.

The team owners need someone else to come in and find out how to get the process going without being forced to sacrifice things. Hiring Jeffrey Kessler allows that to happen because he can negotiate on behalf of the teams from a different perspective, and he has dealt with these sorts of situations before.

Who Was at the Meeting?

Another important note about this meeting is that all team owners were in attendance, not just the negotiating committee. This was something that Denny Hamlin liked, and he says that the teams are presenting a united front.

Michael [Jordan] attended. it was great to hear voices like his and Rick Hendrick and Roger Penske. uh everyone’s just kind of right there and hearing these guys that are very versed in business right. Hearing their side and how they feel and certainly I believe that all the teams are aligned in the sense of uh they all feel the same way for sure.

Denny Hamlin

The teams are well aligned with each other, and they are not budging on what they want. This further feeds into the idea of a stalemate between the owner and race teams. The teams are not budging, and, according to the owners, NASCAR is not budging either.

How Optimistic Is He?

Steve Phelps presented an optimistic outlook on Sunday. However, Denny Hamlin does not agree.

I hear Steve Phelps and I appreciate when he did the interview with Fox about we’re going to get a deal done, we’re gonna have a fair agreement to the teams. I appreciate his optimism. I’m not as optimistic as probably Steve is, but I don’t know how much of that is what he believes is truth versus just what kind of a narrative that is being trying to put out there.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin did say that he “appreciates” what Phelps did, but, Hamlin is not sure if Phelps’ comments are connected to reality. Does Phelps actually believe what he is saying, or is he just trying to adjust the PR narrative?

Attempting to change the narrative seems likely. On the same weekend, the teams hired an antitrust lawyer, so, clearly, there was dissension about how close both parties really were.

Then again, we’re not in the negotiating room, so, we don’t know exactly what is happening. Teams and NASCAR may be closer than we think, and both are trying to put PR pressure on the other to force their hand for the final few pieces. That seems unlikely based on recent reports, but, pretty much everyone involved says they think a deal will get done eventually.

Will a deal get done? As of right now, a deal happening is still very far away.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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