Circle Sport, TMG split; Jeffrey Earnhardt’s contract extension terminated
By John Haverlin
December 12, 2017
After one season together in the NASCAR Cup Series, Circle Sport and The Motorsports Group have ended their partnership.
Circle Sport owner Joe Falk ended the coalition on Monday. TMG owner Curtis Key said, “We wish them the best,” in a press release on Tuesday regarding Falk’s decision.
TMG plans to compete full-time in the upcoming Cup season, but a driver or sponsor hasn’t been announced. Eddie Pardue will continue his role as crew chief for TMG, which will run Chevrolets in 2018.
“This is sudden for us, but we put a plan together rather quickly,” Key said. “We’ve had discussions with potential drivers, but it’s only been a day since the news, and we have more calls to make. We look to have a driver announced in early January.”
If TMG runs full-time, it will likely acquire a charter before the season starts. The charter will guarantee a place in all 36 points events and provide the team more financial stability, i.e., more predictable revenues and assured money from NASCAR for competing in every race.
The team ran 30 races after attempting 35 in 2016. It raced with Josh Wise in 28 events and Gray Gaulding in two. It was an open team then and used the No. 30 on its car.
Circle Sport hasn’t decided what it will do yet. In October, it signed Jeffrey Earnhardt, who ran 34 races in the No. 33 Chevrolet, to a contract extension, but that agreement is no longer existent, according to a tweet by ESPN’s Bob Pockrass. Earnhardt’s sponsor, Hulu, also has to decide whether it will continue to support him.
Falk owns a charter, so his team isn’t without capital. He has the rights to the No. 33, and could field the entry next year without any alliance. However, since NASCAR created the charter agreement, he hasn’t done this. In 2016, he partnered with Leavine Family Racing and used the charter for the No. 95.
Circle Sport’s options include creating a partnership with another team (probably one that doesn’t already have charter), sell the charter, or lease it out for one year.
Falk didn’t make a statement in the press release.
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