NASCAR: The missing detail from the 2021 driver lineup

Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

There is one small detail about the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series driver lineup that has caused some confusion over the last few months.

It has been almost two months since Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott scored the most popular NASCAR Cup Series championship since 1988 when his father won the title, and the driver lineup for the 2021 season is nearly complete after Front Row Motorsports solidified their two-car lineup with Michael McDowell and rookie Anthony Alfredo.

However, there is one small detail about the 2021 lineup that remains in question given the nature of the charter system.

In total, there are 36 charters, and 32 drivers have been confirmed as full-time drivers for entries classified as chartered entries. However, there are five other entries currently listed as chartered entries.

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The five remaining chartered entries include the #77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports and the #15, #51, #52 and #53 cars for Rick Ware Racing.

But that would bring the charter total to 37. Based on what we know so far, the reason for this is Spire Motorsports and the effects of their expansion for 2021.

When Leavine Family Racing announced that the 2020 season would be their last, Spire Motorsports announced that they had purchased their charter. They had entered the 2020 season with one charter to field the #77 Chevrolet full-time for multiple drivers, the charter they had acquired from Furniture Row Racing after 2018.

But in a team release, they had announced that they now had three charters. Where the third one came from was unknown.

There was and still is speculation that it came from JTG Daugherty Racing, but that has never been confirmed. If that were to be the case, the #37 Chevrolet, driven by Ryan Preece, would be a non-chartered car.

Preece is slated to return to the team in 2021, but in a non-chartered car, he would not be guaranteed a starting spot in any of the 36 races on the schedule.

Spire Motorsports do have a partnership with Rick Ware Racing, but all of Rick Ware Racing’s charters are their own following their acquisition of Premium Motorsports. The charter used to run the #51 Petty Ware Racing entry is from Richard Petty Motorsports, but the teams have no affiliation with one another beyond that.

The Money Team Racing, the team co-owned by boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr., are expected to co-brand one of Spire Motorsports’ two full-time cars in 2021 before using one of their three charters to run a full-time car of their own in 2022, so this would not have an effect on 2021’s charter count.

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Considering the fact that there is absolutely not a 37th charter, more information about this situation is expected to become public in the near future, with the 2021 season now scheduled to get underway in just over one month with the 63rd annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, February 14. All 36 chartered cars are guaranteed a starting spot in this race.