NASCAR's Winners and Losers in Phoenix Racing Sale to Turner
The worst-kept secret in NASCAR's garage is the pending sale of Phoenix Racing to Turner-Scott Motorsports. Phoenix owner James Finch announced earlier this year he planned to sell the team at some point in the season. Rumors quickly turned to Turner-Scott, a team on the rise with both the sponsorship and the drivers to make an impact on the Sprint Cup level. Godfather Motorsports reported on Tuesday that multiple sources confirm the sale is complete and will be announced at the Atlanta race just a few weeks away. The change from Phoenix to Turner-Scott will impact far more than just one race team. The following is a look at some of the winners and losers for NASCAR in 2014 and beyond.
Allgaier To Sprint Cup Next Year?
WINNER: Justin Allgaier. Allgaier currently competes full time at the Nationwide level in Turner-Scott's #31 Chevrolet sponsored by Brandt. Along with crew chief Scott Zipadelli (brother of Stewart-Haas Racing Competition Director Greg Zipadelli), he's running a solid sixth place in the series standings. This is his fifth full season at the Nationwide level and he's never finished below sixth in the final standings. He's a former ARCA series champion as well. Yet Allgaier has never had a sniff at the Sprint Cup level. He's watched drivers who finished behind him in the standings get Cup rides while he waits for the phone to ring. Given his history with the team, there's every reason to believe that Turner-Scott will promote Allgaier to the Sprint Cup level next season. And instead of debuting in sub-standard equipment, he'll be running cars that are capable of leading laps and winning races. In this case, patience is rewarded.
For Allmendinger Fans Only!
The Next Generation?
LOSER: A.J. Allmendinger. The Dinger ran several races for Phoenix this year, mainly splitting the seat time with Regan Smith. While he hasn't run up front, he's done what he could with cars that were not as fast as the others around him. Turner-Scott already has Allgaier ready to go and several young drivers (Kyle Larson, Miguel Paludo, and James Buescher) with immense talent who needs seat time. Turner won a Truck series title with Buescher and has invested heavily in the TSM youth movement. Unless sponsorship can be found (and remember, Phoenix was unable to find sponsorship for Allmendinger this year), he's likely to be the odd man out. A return to Penske depends on the same sponsorship concerns and instead of running at the Sprint Cup level, he will likely be forced to run the Nationwide schedule next season.
WINNER: NASCAR fields. At present, Phoenix Racing is running one car on a full time schedule. If Turner-Scott moves up to the Cup level, it's highly likely that the team will run at least a two car operation. Both for fiscal and for competition reasons, running two teams makes far more sense than one. Be it at the Camping World Trucks or Nationwide level, Turner-Scott has always run at least two full time teams. Anything that adds more full time (and competitive) rides improves the quality of the field and adds opportunity for the drivers. It will also bump at least one start and park team from the track.
Harder Road for Start and Park Teams
LOSER: Start and Park Teams. Phoenix Racing, while running a full schedule, was one car running older equipment. Turner-Scott Motorsports will be a two or three car operation running top of the line equipment with quality drivers. The combination of larger fields and faster cars will make it more difficult for start and park operations to make races. It will also decrease the likelihood of races like Watkins Glen, where every car that showed up to the track was guaranteed to make the race. Start and park operations will need to be more selective in their race schedule and bring better equipment in order to make the actual race.
Rick Hendrick Is Smiling
WINNER: Rick Hendrick. Turner's Nationwide team has a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, receiving engines, chassis and engineering support from the NASCAR giant. Phoenix Racing also purchased equipment from Hendrick but at a much smaller level. Adding more teams at the Sprint Cup level will only increase the dollars and the information flowing into the Hendrick camp. They already provide engines for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (two cars), and full support to Stewart-Haas Racing (three cars) in addition to their own four car program. It's entirely possible that over a quarter of the field in next year's Daytona 500 will be running Hendrick equipment.
LOSER: Single Car Operations. While Tony Stewart is the last owner-driver to win the series championship, you'd need to look far further into the record books to find the last time a single car operation won the title (1992- Alan Kulwicki). Phoenix Racing might not have competed for a championship but they did employ champions behind the wheel in Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. They provided hope for other single car operations that, with the right alliance and a few breaks, they too could be a part of NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup series. With Finch's departure from the series, that hope becomes ever more distant.