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NASCAR Cup Phoenix II

Media rights and charters unresolved after milestone NASCAR year

While NASCAR celebrated several important milestones during its 75th anniversary year, its executives admit some unfinished business as the 2023 season is set to conclude this weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem Toyota Camry, Ben Beshore, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Supra and NASCAR President Steve Phelps

The 2023 season saw NASCAR’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its Garage 56 entry, its first-ever street race in the Cup series through the Grant Park area of Chicago and 50 percent more sellouts at Cup races than a year ago.

Competition on the track – particularly the intermediate tracks – with the Next Gen car continues to get good marks, 10 of the 16 organizations which own the 36 charters in Cup won races during the season and digital and social media consumption metrics are up year-over-year.

Yet two very important issues remain unresolved heading into the offseason – no agreement has been reached between NASCAR and Cup teams on extending charters and NASCAR has yet to finalize the Truck and Cup portions of a new media rights deal.

“Our media rights, the amount of interest in attaining our media rights for '25 and beyond exceeded our expectations,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Friday during his annual ‘State of the Sport’ address.

“It is our expectation that not only having a great result with the CW with our Xfinity Series, and what’s going to be an incredible 33-race schedule on broadcast television, we believe that we’re going to have a very strong result with media partners that will look at a combination of broadcast, cable and streaming to some degree.

“What that looks like, I don’t know. Are we getting towards the end of this process? We are. Did I think we would have a result earlier? I did. But we haven’t. It’s an incredibly competitive marketplace.”

Fox network

Photo by: James Holland

Fox network

In late July, NASCAR announced part of its new media rights deal – the CW Network will broadcast the Xfinity Series beginning in 2025 and through the 2031 season.

The entire Truck series is currently broadcast by Fox and its affiliates while the Cup Series is currently split between Fox and NBC and their respective affiliates.

The CW Network deal includes broadcasting all 33 Xfinity races, along with practice and qualifying, and reportedly worth as much as $115 million per season. The CW has been pushing to feature more live sports programming and added deals to broadcast golf events, as well as ACC football and basketball games.

The lack of a completed new TV deal is due at least in part to the Cup teams and NASCAR having not yet agreed to a new agreement on charters, which will expire at the end of the 2024 season.

“If you would ask the race teams do we think we’re making progress with NASCAR on where things stand in the extension of our charters, I think our race teams would say yes,” Phelps said.

“We understand that race teams want three things. They want to be competitive on the race track, they want to make sure they’re break-even or profitable. As it relates to the charter specifically, they want to increase their enterprise value.

“I won’t get into numbers where we stand from an enterprise value standpoint, but when the charters change hands at the end of the year, we know at least one will, there will be a significant multiple that race teams will have from a charter enterprise value standpoint.”

Steve Phelps, President of Nascar

Photo by: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Steve Phelps, President of Nascar

Spire Motorsports is purchasing a charter from Live Fast Motorsports at the end of the season and the purchase price is reportedly nearly $40 million – a dramatic increase from when they were first introduced in 2016.

Phelps said he believes the media rights deal needs to be completed before the charter issue can be addressed.

“We’ve acknowledged that we want to change the paradigm for our race teams and we need to make sure our race teams are profitable, competing on the race tracks,” he said. “We are interested in having their enterprise value climb, as I said earlier.

“No timeline, but we are as we’re finalizing our media rights talking about other portions of what our charters would look like that are not financial.”

Among the other topics addressed on Friday:

- Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief operating officer, confirmed NASCAR has an electric vehicle car designed with an alternative body style. “I would not look for us specifically to go racing with it,” he said. “I think you could see it showcased at certain events next season.” O’Donnell has a trip scheduled Thursday to Japan to look at hydrogen racing specifically.

- “Everything is up for consideration” as NASCAR continues to improve its racing package on short tracks and road courses, said O’Donnell. He said the immediate focus on an upcoming test will be on shifting the underbody of the car.

- Phelps said NASCAR still has interest in racing again in Montreal but is also looking into “other opportunities in North America and outside the U.S.”

- NASCAR still plans to build what would likely be a half-mile short track on the site of current Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., but the timetable remains wide open. The current track is being demolished.

- Stage breaks will likely remain on road course events in 2024, O’Donnell said, but NASCAR may also look at “incentives during the race” in relation to the points system.

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