Hendrick Motorsports and Trackhouse Racing both have their driver lineups set through at least 2025.
For drivers individually, that is a big deal to know they should have some job stability. Granted, a driver who struggles consistently might find himself in a meeting with a team owner discussing a buyout, but it at least means there isn’t a feeling of driving for the job every week.
Maybe more importantly, the stability of teammates can help a driver as much as or even more than the driver’s own deal.
Bowman’s deal was announced the week of the Daytona 500, and all four drivers know they shouldn’t have any distractions or drama going on around them for a couple of years.
“He’s brought a lot to the table from a team perspective that none of you guys or anybody will ever see,” Elliott said about Bowman. “There’s a lot of things that go on behind closed doors and in our meetings, he has a lot to offer for everybody involved.”
While much of the focus when talking teammates is on how they race each other and treat each other on the track, it’s the off-the-track chemistry that can help the drivers the most.
“When we go in and have dialogue about what we’re feeling in the car or what change did this or what change did that,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of similarities. When we can all go in the room and everybody be open in their opinions and what’s going on, there’s a lot to offer there.”
Hendrick crew excited for Bowman
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and WIlliam Byron spoke about Alex Bowman’s extension with Hendrick Motorsports.
The drivers don’t have to be extremely close to have that confidence in each other. Larson didn’t know about Bowman’s extension until the day it was announced.
“It definitely helps out when everybody is solid — you work confidently and closer together,” Larson said. “You know you’re going to be working with each other for years to come.
“I love my teammates. All the teams work really well together, and it’s only going to continue to grow and get better.”
Each of the four Hendrick drivers came to the team from different paths. Bowman had a background similar to Larson’s, but it wasn’t as extensive on the sprint-car level and Bowman had to toil with underfunded stock-car teams for several years before working as Hendrick’s simulator driver for a couple of seasons.
Elliott and Byron came up through the traditional late model route, although Byron got most of his initial training iRacing.
“We all bring something different to the table and we all work really well together, so to be able to continue to build around each other together is going to be really good,” Bowman said.
“It’s going to be a good time”
Alex Bowman spoke about his recent contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.
The same is true at Trackhouse. Both Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain announced contract extensions during the week of the Daytona 500. Both of them are multiyear deals, with Chastain’s believed to be one that could keep him at Trackhouse for several years.
Suarez came up through late models in Mexico and the NASCAR diversity program. Chastain’s late model path was through racing in Florida.
“He was the first driver at Trackhouse, and he is setting the benchmark on how things go,” Chastain said of Suarez. “I learned a lot from him. Although we come from two totally different countries, it’s crazy how similar we are.”
Chastain enjoyed a breakout year in 2022, his first with Trackhouse, as he finished second in the Cup standings. Suarez also enjoyed his best season, while not as successful as Chastain’s.
Suarez is in his third year with Trackhouse, which has been his Cup home longer than any other organization that he has driven for in his career.
“It doesn’t feel like I have been with Trackhosue for that long, but it has been my longest Cup team,” Suarez said. “That just tells you how important the consistency and working together and building.”
Suarez on his Trackhouse tenure
Daniel Suarez, who signed a multiyear contract extension with Trackhouse Racing, explains why this ride has worked out when others have not.
Team co-owner Justin Marks said he wasn’t worried about either of his drivers leaving the organization. With Stewart-Haas Racing looking to replace the retiring Kevin Harvick after the 2023 season, Chastain was considered a potential candidate for that ride.
“In the season that we had in 2022, where we were close to winning a championship with the 1 car [of Chastain] and got a win and fantastic performances out of the 99 car [of Suarez], what we were building, I didn’t ever have any anxiety about losing these guys,” Marks said.
“I felt really, really confident about it.”
Marks said he wanted to send a message to his entire organization that Suarez and Chastain are the drivers the team would build around.
Long-term deals can be a little tricky as team owners can’t really project revenues for 2025 and beyond because those will be set by the next television package. The current 10-year deal ends in 2024.
That means these contracts likely contain plenty of clauses to determine driver compensation depending on what the payouts are to teams beginning in 2025.
“Now is the time for all of us to lock down what we’ve got that’s good and make sure that we’re committed to our drivers and committed to our people,” Marks said.
“So as a cohesive group that we know confidently is going to work together, we can go through this transition over the next three years and come out the other side of it really, really strong.”
Chastain stays with Trackhouse
Justin Marks and Ross Chastain offer initial thoughts on Chastain signing a multiyear contract extension to stay at Trackhouse.
As Byron noted at Hendrick, being locked down is a good thing.
“It certainly helps the camaraderie within the team, just all jelling and us not worrying about the outside noise,” Byron said.
“That’s the biggest thing for us to be able to focus and get to work and not question which guy is going to be there.”
What To Watch For
On Sunday at Las Vegas, watch for Kyle Busch spinning … and still finishing in the top-5. That’s what he did in both races there last year.
The only thing different this year is he might actually win one of those races instead of finishing fourth a year ago and third in the October race in his hometown.
Both races came down to tire calls at the end: Alex Bowman won a year ago thanks to a two-tire pit stop where he held off teammate Kyle Larson and Busch in overtime, and then Joey Logano won in October when he took four tires late and was able to pass Ross Chastain (who did not pit) in the final laps.
Speaking of tires, there was a lot of tire rubber buildup that could be seen coming out of cars during the race last October. The tires are the same for this race as they were in the fall (and at Fontana last week).
Also, don’t be surprised if Larson and Bubba Wallace run well. They both were strong last fall until their incident.
Thinking Out Loud
NASCAR issued its first suspensions of the season for a wheel coming off a car while on the racetrack, and the crew chief wasn’t included.
Changing the penalty from a four-race suspension of the crew chief, the tire changer and the jackman to a two-race suspension of two crew members of NASCAR’s choosing was the right move for 2023. When NASCAR went from five lug nuts to a single center lug nut in 2022, the four-race suspensions were too severe of a penalty.
With five lug nuts, teams were purposefully not tightening all five, and once NASCAR went to a video-based officiating system on pit road and didn’t have an official in each stall looking at the lug nuts during stops, it needed to have a severe penalty if a wheel came off.
With one lug nut, teams are not going to purposefully not tighten it. If it comes off, it’s a crew member mistake by trying to go too fast, not a strategy call that would be tied to responsibility of the crew chief.
So NASCAR is suspending those who are responsible because it is a major safety issue. But NASCAR is not sitting a crew chief for something he has little responsibility for, especially considering that several organizations assign pit crew members to teams with the crew chief having little to no input. The pit crew is a totally separate department at big organizations, which also often lease pit crew members (their backups) to smaller teams for use on race day.
Suspending a crew chief for a wheel coming off seemed to be excessive last year (it happened more than 20 times), and it was time for a change for 2023.
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They Said It
“It’s disappointing to get wrecked out of the race like that on a silly Mickey Mouse restart.” —Aric Almirola on the multi-car crash at Auto Club Speedway following a caution
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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