The last several NASCAR offseasons have all shared an unsettling common theme: contraction. 2011 was no different. In the Cup Series alone, we lost both Red Bull cars, a team from both Childress and Roush Fenway, and the privateer TRG Motorsports. And there were several more losses from the Nationwide and Truck Series. For those that work in and around the sport, it’s been a tough few years. But there is hope for the future, even if it’s small. Those empty spots on the grid mean opportunity for small teams and unknown drivers looking to break into NASCAR.
In the Cup Series, it seems new teams are coming out of the woodworks to compete. Names like Robinson Blakeney, and Sinica have announced plans to race full or part time schedules. Add to that teams like RAB Racing, Turn One, Go Green Racing, and Means Motorsports, who have competed at lower levels but will now attempt one or more Cup races.
Fewer top teams also means that existing small teams will have an easier time making races and competing. Tommy Baldwin Racing, Front Row Motorsports, FAS Lane, and Inception are all examples of teams that will benefit.
In the NNS and CWTS, car count help is coming in the form of new teams and existing teams expanding. Richard Petty Motorsports, Kyle Busch Motorsports, and Tommy Baldwin Racing are all adding Nationwide programs. Eddie Sharp will now have two full time truck teams, as will Joe Denette Motorsports. RAB will run the full truck schedule with John Wes Townley, and Thorsport is now a three truck operation with the addition of Dakoda Armstrong. Veteran crew chief Richie Wauters has started his own truck team with Paulie Harraka driving, and Ward and Jeb Burton have teamed up with the Hillman’s for a new truck effort.
For some of these new small teams, the probability of doing anything more than starting and parking is low. Sponsorship is still very difficult to come by and many of these teams are without significant resources. But if a few are able to find a foothold, than the sport will be all the better because of it.