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Uncharted Waters: The Good & Bad of New Charter System

There is no doubt the biggest change this off-season was NASCAR's move to a charter system.  Basically, the system guarantees 36 teams will race in all points events.  To make this easier to understand, imagine NASCAR is Willie Wonka.  A charter is pretty much a golden ticket, which was was handed to all teams that had been running full-time since 2013.  This golden ticket puts each of the 36 teams in every race with no pressure to make the event.  

Of course with 36 charters and a potential 40 car field, someone must be left out.  For every team that was not granted a charter, they must qualify into each race based on qualifying speed.  For example, Ryan Blaney and the #21 team from Wood Brothers Racing were not granted a charter due to part-time attendance.  This team will have to qualify into every event no matter past performance.  The last thing to understand is that these charters will mostly likely not change hands over the next 9 seasons (the length of the first charter grants).  Unless a team were to close or sell their charter, all 36 granted will stay the same.

Well, with the long introduction out of the way let's get into the meat and potatoes of this post!  Three things that are good and bad about the new charter system.  As always comment or Tweet (@nascar_opinion) me your opinions on the issue and let's get a conversation going!  Let's get rolling!!

The Good:

1. Provides more value to teams.

NASCAR teams are fueled by sponsorship.  Sponsors such as Lowe's, Nationwide, and M&M's are what keep drivers running successful week in and week out.  Now, with a guaranteed spot in each race, teams are now 'worth' more.  Don't let me confuse you, a teams physical value (money value) does not change, but the value to potential sponsors could.  In the past companies may have backed out of deals considering the level of uncertainty in professional auto racing.  Just think, if you were a CEO of a big corporation, would you want to spend upwards of $500,000 on sponsorship for a car that may or may not make the race?  I doubt it.  With the new charter system sponsors no longer have to worry about their brand being seen in each race.  For example, a company like Dr. Pepper who has partnered with BK Racing for years, can now rest easy knowing their famous logo will be seen in at least 36 events.  With more security, teams can assure potential partners that their brand will be represented every week, thus raising the value of teams with a granted charter.  

2. Rewards Loyalty.

This point will be questioned by some fans considering the #21 team did not receive a charter.  Though the Wood Brothers have been a part of NASCAR since 1953, they had not ran a full-time Cup schedule since 2006 (Ken Schrader), which is why a charter was not granted.  Regardless of the #21 organization, the new system does reward loyalty.  One reason this sport continues to survive is the dedication from team owners.  Personalities such as Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress have fielded cars for decades, providing a high level of competition.  Without these team owners NASCAR would fall a part.  The charter system now gives back to dedicated teams that continue to participate on a full-time basis.  These teams spend millions every year just to run in the traveling circus called NASCAR, so why not give them some sort of security.  Plain and simple, teams such as Hendrick, Gibbs, RCR, Roush, and Penske have earned a their 'insurance policy' from NASCAR.  

3. Consistency.

As a fan of NASCAR, I can openly say that constant rule changes get confusing.  Each year NASCAR changes policies which can cause confusion among fans of all ages.  Just this year the charter system, new aero package, and overtime line were introduced, and that doesn't include the addition to a Chase in both lower divisions and a caution clock in the truck series.  Needless to say, fans have to learn the sport all over again with each new rule change.  While fans may or may not like the charter system, at least we understand how cars will make or miss a race for the next 9 years.  Instead of changing the qualifying or provisional rules, NASCAR has let it be known that the charter system will be in affect for years to come.  This will make qualifying procedures more consistent, and give fans one less thing to learn every year.

The Bad:

1. Harder on successful under-funded teams.

There is no better example for this point then Ryan Blaney and the #21 team.  Through 4 races, Blaney sits 12th in the drivers standings, meaning he currently qualifies for the Chase.  While there are still 22 races left until the postseason, Blaney has a solid chance of making the Chase in his rookie season.  How does this connect to the new charter system?  Imagine if Blaney is competing for or makes the Chase, and a mistake occurs in qualifying.  In the past he would have a provisional spot into the race, but now Blaney could miss a race and ruin any chance of him making a run for a championship.  The #21 team should have no issues making races this season, but the idea that Blaney (currently a top tier driver on the circuit) could miss a race is ridiculous.  In addition to missing a race, another difficulty arises when preparing for the Chase.  If field sizes start to increase again, Blaney will have to focus more on making the field instead of running for a title.  Also, don't forget the fact that the charters could very easily not shift hands for the next 9 years.  Simply put, the new charter system doesn't hurt most teams, but could still have an impact on teams running for championship for many years to come.

2. Hard to earn a charter.

The NASCAR rules state that a charter can only shift hands through the purchase or transfer from another team.  The only other way to attain a charter is through another teams lack of performance.  If a team finishes in the bottom three in owners points for three consecutive seasons, then the charter may be removed.  Now that we have covered all of NASCAR's mumbo-jumbo, it is important to realize that finding a needle in a haystack is easier than being rewarded a NASCAR charter.  It is understandable that the charters are limited, but the level of difficulty to claim one is absurd.  One solution may be a performance guarantee, where teams who finish in the top-25 in points receive a charter for the next season.  This way a charter has more value, and creates better competition among teams.  Honestly, I think the charter system would work better if NASCAR had the rights to each charter instead of team owners.  This would pretty much destroy any reasons for having a charter, but there is too much 'permanence' involved with this new system.

3. Easy to make races.

Making a Sprint Cup race has never been impossible, but the implementation of charters have made it easy for 90% (36/40) of the field to secure a starting spot each week.  Going off the point above about how charters are too permanent, drivers have no pressure at all to make the field.  Provisional rules have always been in place, but now even rookies feel no pressure when racing for a top-tier team.  For instance, when Erik Jones takes over a ride in Cup a few years from now, odds are he will run for Joe Gibbs Racing.  JGR already has 4 charters for all four teams, so Jones will never have the concern of making the field.  Teams have earned their comfort and drivers have it easy, knowing that no matter what happens there will always be next week.  The facts are, that with gauranteed starting spots and no provisional policy, making a Cup race has never been easier.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!  Tell me your opinion on this post and other topics on Twitter, at @nascar_opinion!  Also, listen to me on tunein.com on Monday evenings from 7-9pm!  Go to tunein.com and search Winthrop University!  Then download the stream and launch the app!  The name of the show is "From the Stands Sports Talk Radio"!  Again, thanks for reading, I hope you have a great rest of your day! 

(PICS NOT MINE, USED FROM VARIOUS SITES)

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