I wrote a post a while back about the Silly Season for crew guys kicking off, and we are currently neck deep in it. For me personally, there may be a few opportunities to go somewhere else for next season, but as we move ever closer to Homestead, I’m starting to feel like maybe I should just stay where I’m at.
There has been plenty of talk on the Internet and in the traditional media about the very bad economy we are in and what this means for the sport. Support from the manufacturers is starting to dry up, and the search to find sponsors willing to part with large sums of cash is becoming increasingly difficult. Because of this, I know there are several teams where large layoffs are imminent, and I even read an article online today about what some are calling “Black Monday.” You can be sure employees of places like Dale Earnhardt Inc., Petty Enterprises, Team Rensi, Michael Waltrip Racing, and Roush Fenway’s truck shop are starting to get very nervous.
The inevitable fact of crew guys changing teams is something that happens every year with astonishing regularity. Everyone is always looking for more money, a better situation, a stronger team. Loyalty and tenure are hard to find in the sport, especially among over-the-wall guys. There are very few pit crews that keep the same five guys for more then a year or two. But I think this year is shaping up to be much different then what we’ve seen in the past.
Heading into this off-season, it seems as though we are going to have a net loss in terms of the number of jobs available within the sport. There are several organizations between the top three series that are closing down teams after Homestead, and it doesn’t appear that there are as many new teams being formed. And even at companies that aren’t losing teams next season, I believe moves will be made to ensure the financial health for the future, and that may mean some cuts.
In my own situation, I’m currently with a team that has a solid outlook for next season (about as solid as anything can be in racing). And even though I would always be open to bigger and better opportunities, I think it might just be smarter to sit tight and stay where I’m at. Setting my sights on another job somewhere else may mean giving up an opportunity to stay with my current team. And I think in the current climate of the sport, giving up a near certain spot at a solid race team may be extremely damaging to one’s career.
To give you a simple analogy, think of all of this movement as a big game of musical chairs. There are only so many open spots, and there are a lot of people hunting one of those openings. I know that come January, I don’t want to be one of those without a chair when the music stops.