The NASCAR Cup Series held its first race with just 36 cars since July 2019 this past Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. Prior to Sunday’s race, 90 consecutive races had featured at least 37 cars. Therefore it became the first race since the July 2019 race at Kentucky Speedway to only feature chartered entries and exclude all non-chartered entries. NASCAR insiders believe that this new theme may become the norm for the foreseeable future.
What to know
- NASCAR races are shrinking from 40 racers down to around 36
- The change comes in part due to supply issues
- Only one non-chartered race team will race at least six races total this season
One aspect of the situation deals with the supply of parts, especially considering that NASCAR recently adopted Next Gen racing technology with very tight specifications. But the supply shortages also extend into the world, at large, which is currently dealing with supply chain issues and raw materials shortages across all industries.
Even the year’s premier race, the Daytona 500, barely filled up all spots before the flag dropped. The first 63 Great American Races featured at least 40 cars. And no race at Daytona International Speedway had featured fewer than that amount since July 1968. This year, however, the race did not appear full until a few late entries from independent teams finally pushed the total to 42 drivers. As a result, two drivers were cut from the 40-man field.
But those extra drivers — all non-chartered entries — do not necessarily want to race the entire circuit this season. In fact, of the six non-chartered entries that attempted to qualify for the Daytona 500, none will race the entire season. Furthermore, not a single one of those entries are confirmed for even more than six additional races on this year’s schedule. For reference, a full NASCAR slate includes well over 30 races total.
What about NASCAR’s drivers outside the 36 chartered cars?
The #27 Team Hezeberg Ford will supposedly return for the six road course races, with Loris Hezemans behind the wheel. Alternatively, the #44 NY Racing Team Chevrolet is only currently confirmed for this Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with Greg Biffle again driving.
Remember Floyd Mayweather’s team? His #50 The Money Team Racing Chevrolet will return at Circuit of the Americas in late March with Kaz Grala behind the wheel; while the #62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet is competing in the three remaining superspeedway races, including two at Talladega Superspeedway and one at Daytona International Speedway.
The two MBM Motorsports entries, both of which failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, will also return eventually, but the teams haven’t set the dates. J.J. Yeley should get to drive the #55 Ford at Talladega Superspeedway in late April if all goes according to plan. But the other driver, Boris Said of the #66 Ford, does not know when he will race next.
Unless something changes, it appears as if NASCAR fields will permanently shrink by about 10 percent this year to 36 cars. The next race, the Penzoil 400, begins tomorrow at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET.