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Hendrick Motorsports and Trackhouse Racing have their driver lineups set through at least 2025.
For individual drivers, it is very important to know that they should have some job stability. Sure, a constantly struggling driver might find himself in a meeting with a team owner discussing a purchase, but at least it means there’s no sense of driving to work every week.
Perhaps most importantly, the stability of teammates can help a driver as much or even more than the driver’s own treatment.
At Hendrick, Chase Elliott is signed through 2027, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman through 2026 and William Byron through 2025.
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Bowman’s deal was announced the week of the Daytona 500, and all four drivers know they shouldn’t have any distractions or drama surrounding them for a couple of years.
“He’s brought a lot to the table from a team perspective that none of you or anybody will ever see,” Elliott said of Bowman. “There’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors and at our meetings, it has a lot to offer for everyone involved.”
While much of the attention when talking to teammates is focused on how they race and treat each other on the track, it’s the off-track chemistry that can help drivers the most.
When they trust each other and the feedback, they can use it to improve their own cars.
“When we go in and have a dialogue about what we feel in the car or what change did this or what change did that,” Elliott said. “There are a lot of similarities. When we can all get in the room and everyone is open about their opinions and what’s going on, there’s a lot to offer.”
Hendrick’s crew is excited for Bowman
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and WIlliam Byron discussed Alex Bowman’s extension with Hendrick Motorsports.
Riders don’t have to be very close to have that trust in each other. Larson didn’t know about Bowman’s extension until the day it was announced.
“It definitely helps when everyone is solid — you work with confidence and more 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 keep growing and getting better.”
Each of Hendrick’s four drivers came to the team from different paths. Bowman had a similar background to Larson’s, but it wasn’t as extensive at the sprint car level, and Bowman had to work with underfunded stock car teams for several years before working as Hendrick’s sim driver for a couple of seasons
Elliott and Byron went the traditional late model route, though Byron got most of his early iRacing training.
“We all bring something different to the table and we all work really well together, so being able to continue to build each other up together will be great,” Bowman said.
“It’s going to be a good time”
Alex Bowman discussed his recent contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.
The same goes for Trackhouse. Both of us Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain announced contract extensions during the week of the Daytona 500. Both are multi-year deals, and Chastain is believed to be one that could keep him at the Trackhouse for several years.
Suarez came through late models in Mexico and the NASCAR diversity program. Chastain’s path to late modeling was through racing in Florida.
“He was the first driver at Trackhouse, and he’s setting the benchmark for how things are going,” Chastain said of Suarez. “I learned a lot from him. Even though we come from two totally different countries, it’s crazy how similar we are.”
Chastain enjoyed a breakout year in 2022, her first with Trackhouse, as she finished second in the Cup standings. Suarez also enjoyed her best season, although 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 he has driven for in his career.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been with Trackhosue that long, but it’s been my longest Cup team,” Suarez said. “That just tells you how important consistency is and working together and building.”
Suárez in his tenure at Trackhouse
Daniel Suarez, who signed a multi-year contract extension with Trackhouse Racing, explains why this ride has worked when others haven’t.
Team co-owner Justin Marks said he was not concerned about any 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 we had in 2022, where we came close to winning a championship with car 1 [of Chastain] and got a win and some great performances in the ’99 car [of Suarez]what we were building, I never had any anxiety about losing those guys,” Marks said.
“I felt very, very confident.”
Marks said he wanted to send a message to his entire organization that Suarez and Chastain are the drivers the team would build around.
Longer-term deals can be a bit tricky, as team owners can’t project revenue into 2025 and beyond, as the next TV package will set them. The current 10-year deal ends in 2024.
That means those contracts will likely contain many clauses to determine driver compensation based on what the payments to the teams are after 2025.
“Now is the time for all of us to lock in what we have that is good and make sure we are committed to our drivers and our people,” Marks said.
“So as a cohesive group that we know with confidence will work together, we can go through this transition over the next three years and come out the other side very, very strong.”
Chastain sticks with Trackhouse
Justin Marks and Ross Chastain offer initial thoughts on Chastain signing a multi-year contract extension to stay at Trackhouse.
As Byron pointed out to Hendrick, being locked up is a good thing.
“It definitely helps the camaraderie within the team, just that we all get ice cream and don’t worry 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 out for
Sunday in Las Vegas, watch Kyle Busch spin…and still finish in the top 5. That’s what he did in both races last year.
The only thing different this year is that he could win one of those races instead of finishing fourth a year ago and third in his hometown race in October.
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 win in October when he caught 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 build-up that could be seen coming off the cars during last October’s race. 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 work well together. Both were going 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 track, and the crew chief was not included.
Changing the penalty from a four-race suspension of the crew chief, tire changer and beater to a two-race suspension of two crew members chosen by NASCAR was the right move for 2023. When NASCAR went go from five females to just one. the central screw in 2022, the four-race suspensions were too severe a penalty.
With five nuts, the teams weren’t tightening all five, and once NASCAR went to a video-based officiating system on pit road and didn’t have an official at each stop watching the nuts during stops, it needed have a severe penalty if a wheel comes off.
With a nut, teams do not tighten it on purpose. If it goes out, it’s a mistake by the crew member trying to go too fast, not a strategy call that would be tied to the crew chief’s responsibility.
So NASCAR suspends those responsible because it is a major safety issue. But NASCAR is not a crew chief for something it has little responsibility for, especially considering that several organizations assign pit crew members to teams with the crew chief having little or no input. Pit crew is a completely separate department from the big organizations, who often also rent out pit crew members (their backups) to smaller teams for use on race day.
Suspending a crew chief for a wheel coming off seemed excessive last year (it happened over 20 times), and it was time for a change for 2023.
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They said it
“It’s disappointing to go out of the race like that in a silly Mickey Mouse reboot.” —Aric Almirola in the multi-car crash at Auto Club Speedway after a caution
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.
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