NASCAR losing another full-time driver and team?

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

As silly season began to heat up, many had been watching JTG Daugherty Racing to see what their next move was in regard to their NASCAR Cup Series future.

Several NASCAR Cup Series teams have folded in recent years, and there was speculation that another one could join them after the 2022 season.

Germain Racing sold their charter to 23XI Racing, the new team started by Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan, after the 2020 season.

Leavine Family Racing, whom 23XI Racing replaced as a Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated organization, sold theirs to Spire Motorsports after the 2020 season.

Then after the 2021 season, StarCom Racing sold their charter to 23XI Racing, which expanded to become a two-car team for 2022.

The Cup Series also recently lost MBM Motorsports as a full-time team, but that situation is a bit different. They still compete part-time, but they have never had a charter as a full-time organization, despite ongoing efforts from team owner Carl Long to acquire one.

Could another small team end up folding and selling their charter in the near future?

In the 2020 season, JTG Daugherty Racing ran two chartered entries, the #37 Chevrolet for Ryan Preece and the #47 Chevrolet for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. But before the 2021 season, the charter used to run the former went to Spire Motorsports.

Preece still ran every race on the schedule, but there were doubts throughout the season that it could be pulled off.

As expected, they downsized to just one car for the 2022 season. Stenhouse continues to drive the #47 Chevrolet, but he and the team had a disastrous start to the year.

In the first 10 races, Stenhouse only finished higher than 21st place once, and his average finish was an abysmal 26.9, good for 31st among 32 full-time drivers. He sat in 31st in the point standings, even behind RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski, who was issued a 100-point penalty back in March.

This was massively different than last year, when he did not finish lower than 18th place in the season’s first nine races and boasted an average finish of 13.1.

Considering the fact that some of the other smaller teams have excelled to start the Next Gen era, this was seen as an even more concerning development.

It even led to speculation that JTG Daugherty Racing could be looking to sell their charter at some point in the near future, potentially to a new team looking to enter the Cup Series (JR Motorsports?).

Others speculated that they may replace Stenhouse before the end of the season, with some even suggesting that if they don’t, they clearly don’t have any intention to compete beyond 2022.

Notably, all of the aforementioned teams that have recently folded are one-car teams, and that is what JTG Daugherty Racing have become — and they had seemed to go downhill quicker than most.

The only exception was Chip Ganassi Racing, but they were completely acquired by Trackhouse Racing Team and initially had no plans to leave the sport until they were presented with the vision that team co-owner Justin Marks presented them.

But JTG Daugherty Racing and Stenhouse have responded to those rumors in a big way, and with actions, not words.

Since the terrible start to 2022, Stenhouse has suddenly become one of the hottest drivers in the Cup Series. He finished in second place at Dover Motor Speedway, and he backed that up with eighth place finishes at Darlington Raceway and Kansas Speedway and then a seventh place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Over the last four races, his average finish of 6.25 is second best in the Cup Series, trailing only that of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (5.00). He has ascended to 24th place in the point standings, and his overall average finish has jumped nearly six positions to 21.00.

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And above all, a new deal to keep Stenhouse with JTG Daugherty Racing is now seen as a matter of when, not if. Have things ever turned on a dime so quickly for a team and driver who seemed to be going absolutely nowhere — nowhere, that is, but potentially out?