The end of the 2011 season is drawing near, and it seems we hear every week about another team that is preparing to lay off employees. The U.S. economy has still not rebounded, and even though some signs are better for NASCAR (like TV ratings), it would appear that we haven’t yet found the bottom. It all adds up to what will be another tough winter for many employed in and around the sport.
Thanks to North Carolina’s WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act, we’ve had several public notifications within the last few weeks about impending race team layoffs. The state requires a 60 day notice if more than 50 workers will be laid off because of a company shutdown. Red Bull Racing, Kevin Harvick Inc., and Germain Racing have all filed with the state.
Red Bull and KHI are organizations that will be shut down completely at season’s end. We’ve obviously known about Red Bull for several months, and we learned within the last month about KHI. The Nationwide Series teams that were housed at KHI will be absorbed by Richard Childress Racing, so there is some hope for a few. But that still leaves several hundred people looking for work.
Germain, while still a bad situation, isn’t quite as dire as Red Bull and KHI. Germain knows for certain they have funding for 22 races for their Cup Series program for next season, but their Truck teams are in limbo. Brendan Gaughan may not return, GEICO won’t sponsor Max Papis, and they’ve been piecing together sponsorship for Todd Bodine for the last several seasons. With so much still to figure out, they didn’t have any other choice but to file their notice.
Besides these teams, we know there is a good chance RCR will cut back down to three Cup teams with the departure of Clint Bowyer. Roush Fenway Racing could be facing cuts, as sponsorship remains a big question for their #6 and #17 Cup teams. There is also word that their Nationwide Series program could be significantly smaller next season. And while we are talking about NNS teams, Turner Motorsports might be cutting back both their NNS and Truck programs because of lack of sponsorship. There are also questions at Rusty Wallace Racing, as it appears they need a replacement for 5 Hour Energy.
It isn’t all bad though. If Bowyer does end up at Michael Waltrip Racing like it has been rumored, that team would go from two cars to three. Also, Stewart Haas is adding at least a partial third Cup car with the addition of Danica Patrick. We also know that Eddie Sharp Racing will expand significantly next season, as the team has purchased the #8 and #33 trucks from KHI to add to their already existing #6 truck. Possible drivers for those seats include Cale Gale and Tim George, Jr. And besides adding KHI’s #8 and #33 NNS teams, RCR will start a third NNS team for Austin Dillon.
With eight weeks remaining, there are still a lot of unfinished plans. Drivers like Brian Vickers and Mark Martin still haven’t locked down seats for 2012, and there are plenty of other free agent drivers in the lower series. We also continue to hear that Red Bull’s involvement in NASCAR may not completely end. The chance still exists for that team to continue in some form or another. Either way, here’s to hoping everyone lands on their feet following Homestead.