Most race fans know it’s expensive to field cars in the NASCAR Cup Series, but maybe not quite this expensive.
BK Racing is bankrupt. As in literally, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back before the Daytona 500. What is turning some heads is the numbers that have come out of its filings, figures that reflect just how expensive racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is when you don’t have solid sponsors — even as those become increasingly harder to find.
Bob Pockrass of ESPN has done his usual amazing reporting while breaking down BK Racing’s woes. But here’s the main takeaway: From 2014 through 2016, the team was losing about $10 million a season.
Granted, some of that may have been because the organization was simply overextended. BK Racing ran two cars in the Cup Series during those years, the No. 23, which is still around, and the No. 83, which isn’t. Just cutting down to one car may have saved them some strife.
Then again, maybe not. Because when you consider that each car cost them (doing very rough math) between $5 million and $5.5 million to operate, even fielding just a single car would have lost them multiple millions since the team was bringing in less than $2 million in sponsor money.
It’s important to remember, too, that the BK Racing cars were back markers for most of that time, which is both a curse and a tiny blessing in terms of finances. Not finishing better means they made less purse money, and because they were underfunded compared to bigger Cup Series teams, that money actually meant more. Gray Gaulding finishing in the top 10 in a race this year would probably be cause for celebration in that regard.
Yet the driver salaries listed in the bankruptcy documents are also in the low six-figure range. Consider that top drivers command millions and you start to get an idea of what, say, Stewart-Haas Racing must be spending to field its four-car team.
And as every NASCAR fan knows, it’s not like the sponsorship side is likely to get better soon. It could be that the sport will be left with only owners who can afford to lose money in pursuit of wins and championships. That would make it similar to many other pro sports, but it would be a sobering thought as racing heads toward the next decade.