Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's not a NASCAR driver's market

   Several Roush Fenway Racing drivers in the Sprint Cup series have contract renewals coming up this season and there has been a lot of speculation about whether some or all would leave Roush for another organization.

   In reality, it appears this for all intents and purposes a non-story. Not because the drivers involved – Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are the most mentioned candidates – haven’t performed well enough to seek pay increases or better deals, but instead because there is in large part nowhere for them to go.

   A slow-to-recover economy, a sport still struggling with attendance and ratings and the lack of new big-money sponsors in NASCAR dampen the driver’s market these days.

   In all probability, Edwards and Biffle will remain right where they are and the coverage of their impending “decisions” is really little more than window dressing.

   To go anywhere, first a team must be available. Let’s look at NASCAR’s top teams – Hendrick, Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. Among them they have three available slots and Hendrick and RCR are already at their four-team limit.

   That leaves one team at JGR and two at Stewart-Haas. If any such move was contemplated a big-money sponsor or two would be needed to add a team – and at the moment there are no new ones on the horizon. In fact, Stewart-Haas still has sponsorship to sell on its No. 39 team with driver Ryan Newman.

   In the past, big-name drivers with impressive credentials could almost write their own ticket. It’s just not the case these days.

   Where once a team could fit the pieces of the puzzle around the addition of a driver, it’s much more necessary now to have those pieces in place before a new driver can be enticed to make a move.

   And that change in dynamic is likely what will keep Edwards and Biffle right where they are.