NASCAR team taking a significant chance, risk entering 2024

Rick Ware Racing could end up with two charters that NASCAR can repossess after the 2024 Cup Series season.
Ryan Newman, Rick Ware Racing, NASCAR
Ryan Newman, Rick Ware Racing, NASCAR / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

NASCAR may not have opted to repossess one of Rick Ware Racing's two charters after the 2023 Cup Series season, but that doesn't mean they will make the same decision after the 2024 season.

When the charter system was implemented back in 2016, it contained a performance clause stating that NASCAR reserves the right to repossess a charter if its team finishes in the bottom three (among the 36 charter teams) in the owner standings for the three straight years.

The No. 15 Rick Ware Racing team recorded its third straight bottom three finish in 2023, but NASCAR opted to allow the team to continue on with its charter in 2024. Notably, it is theoretically the No. 51 team's current charter which is the one that has finished outside of the top 33 for three straight years, as that charter was actually the one used for the No. 15 team during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

This decision was made primarily due to the team's use of Roush-Yates Engines, their technical alliance with Rick Ware Racing, and the fact that they actually made a relatively significant splash in free agency by signing Justin Haley to drive full-time in 2024.

The whole idea behind the performance clause was to ensure that even the slowest teams in the paddock continued to strive to be competitive each year.

It was also added to ensure that the Cup Series did not have any "start and park" entries, and that has not been an issue, so the decision to allow Rick Ware Racing to continue with both of their charters instead of just one was further justified.

But what happens if Rick Ware Racing don't improve during the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season?

It's no secret that there are several potential Cup Series team owners who don't yet have a charter, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. being the most prominent. How, exactly, NASCAR would handle a situation in which they repossess a charter is not fully known, simply because it hasn't yet happened.

But if Rick Ware Racing fail to make a marked improvement in 2024, things could get even more interesting for NASCAR since there is a chance that not only the No. 15 team could finish outside of the top 33 for the fourth straight year, but the No. 51 team could finish outside of the top 33 for the third.

Additionally, Live Fast Motorsports, the only team either Rick Ware Racing entry finished ahead of in 2022 and 2023, sold their charter to Spire Motosports, which will only make it more difficult for Rick Ware's team to finish inside the top 33. After back-to-back finishes of 34th and 35th place, you would have to think that they are the odds-on favorites to finish in 35th and 36th.

Still, it's hard to see NASCAR taking action after not taking action after 2023, even if both Rick Ware Racing teams end up in charter repossession territory.

At the end of the day, somebody is going to finish at the bottom, and if NASCAR believes that that team is doing what they need to do to at least try to stay competitive, it's hard to see them reversing course just a year later, especially up against even stronger competition.

Having said that, you'd have to think that the pressure would mount on NASCAR to do something if this situation does unfold in 2024, especially amid an impending new charter agreement.

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Rick Ware Racing have never been a competitive Cup Series team, and after Live Fast Motorsports sold their charter following two straight last place finishes to effectively prevent NASCAR from having the opportunity to repossess their charter following a potential third, there will certainly be calls for NASCAR to make a move so that a much more competitive team can have the chance to compete.