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What Happens When a NASCAR Cup Series Team Shuts Down?

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What’s Happening?

In the wake of Stewart-Haas Racing’s shutdown, many fans and industry insiders are trying to figure out what the fallout will ultimately be. Where do things like the equipment, the drivers, the crew chiefs, and the charters go? Today, we look back at some recent team shutdowns in NASCAR history to see where these individuals all ended up.

  • When a team shuts down, where everything goes largely depends on its alliances. If a team is aligned with one that is shutting down, they often have first dibs on many of the team’s assets.
  • For this article, we will trace where all of these individuals end up going following team shutdowns. We will not analyze every single move from every single shutdown in this era, but, we will look at the most prominent moves.
  • Fans hate to see race teams shut down. However, the fallout can often create some big moves and some of NASCAR’s most exciting pairings.

Charters

Perhaps the most valuable monetary asset outgoing teams have is their charter. For example, the Rick Ware Racing No. 15, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19, 23XI Racing No. 23, and Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41, 23XI Racing No. 45 were all originally purchased from teams that were shutting down. Charters always end up in the hands of other teams simply due to how vital they are to a Cup Series team in this era.

Other charters have gone through multiple teams after a shutdown. For example, the Kaulig No. 16 charter was previously owned by Tommy Baldwn Racing before it shut down and later Leavine Family Racing before that group closed its doors. Both Spire charters originated from teams that shut down.

It’s rarer for team to sell if they’re not outright shutting down. The four instances of a team downsizing without shutting down entirely in the charter era is Richard Childress Racing (from three to two cars in 2018) JTG-Daugherty Racing (from two to one car in 2021), Rick Ware Racing (from four to two cars in 2022) and Live Fast Motorsports (Dropped to part-time in 2024).

Charters always end up with any race team that is willing to expand and has the capital to outright buy a charter.

Drivers

When teams shut down, the driver market is often very interesting. Team alliances play a big role in where drivers go, even if that’s at the expense of a driver already at a race team.

For example, Furniture Row Racing (2018) and Leavine Family Racing (2020) were both aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing before shutting down. Drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell were brought into the fold at JGR the following season. This meant Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones were out of a ride, and both drivers moved on.

With smaller race teams, sometimes the drivers are left to fend for themselves. For example, a Cup Series team did not pick Michael Annett up after HScott Motorsports shut down following the 2016 season. David Ragan, a two-time Cup Series winner, was able to find a ride with BK Racing for 2016 after MWR shut down, and he found another ride with Front Row Motorsports in 2019 after they purchased BK Racing’s No. 23 charter.

Clint Bowyer was left in no-man’s land in 2016 when MWR shut down. He knew he would race at Stewart-Haas Racing beginning in 2017, but he needed to spend a year elsewhere, so he raced at the woefully underperforming HScott Motorsports, where he had his worst Cup Series season.

As for where drivers end up, watch for alliances and these drivers pedigrees. Good drivers often find new rides, and underperforming drivers with few connections struggle to find rides.

Crew Chiefs

Chew chiefs are similar to drivers, but not exactly the same.

Looking at Joe Gibbs Racing again, JGR retained both crew chiefs from the Furniture Row and Leavne Family shutdowns. Cole Pearn moved to JGR with Martin Truex Jr., while Jason Ratcliffe moved down to the Xfinity Series with the team, where he stayed until 2023.

Billy Scott was the crew chief of the No. 55 car at MWR when they shut down, and he is currently the crew chief for 23XI Racing and Tyler Reddick after a stint at SHR. Brian Pattie also found a job after MWR shut down, working with Greg Biffle at Roush for one season before moving to JTG-Daugherty and now Spire Motorsports in the Truck Series.

However, crew chiefs at smaller teams again tend to struggle. Jay Guy, Michael Annett’s crew chief, has not spent a full season as a crew chief since HScott Motorsports shut down.

Equipment

Before charters came about, a team’s equipment was their most valuable asset once they shut down. Equipment can either be dispersed throughout the garage or given back to race teams with alliances.

For example, according to NASCAR, Leavine Family Racing gave their race cars back to Joe Gibbs Racing while selling their shop space to Spire Motorsports. Motorsports.com reported in 2016 that BK Racing bought some of MWR’s equipment when they shut down.

However, NASCAR continually evolves, so the equipment teams use won’t always be useful long term, especially nowadays with the single-source parts on the Next-Gen car. Shop space can also be difficult to sell.

Furniture Row Racing was based in Denver, Colorado when they decided to shut down. With most NASCAR teams being primarily based in North Carolina, what was the gain of buying that shop space?

Michael Waltrip Racing’s shop space was sold to Lake Norman Chrysler in 2019 according to Lake Norman Media Group. Shop space doesn’t always end up within the industry.

Generally speaking, the best performers tend to find places to go, and the poor performers tend to struggle to find their next steps. However, alliances can play a big role in where individuals go. As far as parts and pieces and shop space, that largely depends on the supply and demand at the time teams shut down.

What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is. And don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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