Spire buys charter; Trackhouse signs Zane Smith for 2024 Cup ride
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Trackhouse Racing has signed Zane Smith to a multi-year deal and will have him run in a Cup car in 2024 with Spire Motorsports, which has purchased the charter from Live Fast Motorsport for the effort.
The Athletic reported that Spire purchased the charter for $40 million. The previous high for a charter was $13.5 million that 23XI Racing paid StarCom Racing in November 2021. Terms of Spire’s purchase were not disclosed. Live Fast Motorsports stated that it plans to continue in a part-time role in 2024 with a non-chartered car.
Since Trackhouse Racing’s two-car Cup lineup for next year is set with Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez, Smith will be sent to Spire Motorsports to compete in the third car that Spire adds with its new charter. Spire Motorsports currently fields cars for Corey LaJoie and Ty Dillon. LaJoie signed a contract extension in August.
“It just means the world to me,” an emotional Smith said in Saturday’s press conference at Bristol Motor Speedway of being signed by Trackhouse and go Cup racing.
“I almost didn’t have anything a couple of years ago. This is the place I want to be. Three hundred sixty-five days ago, I sat at a Bob Evans with a very close friend and he asked me where I wanted to race one day. I think he expected maybe some different answer. My answer was Trackhouse. Almost 365 days later I signed a contract with them.”
Smith will join the team in January 2024.
“I will do whatever it takes to win on Sunday, and I have that chance thanks to (Trackhouse owner) Justin Marks,” Smith said.
Marks said the alliance between Spire and Trackhouse will be for Smith’s car only.
“Zane is going to have a presence in our shop,” Marks said. “He’s going to have a presence in our systems and our meetings. Zane is a driver that we have placed, with the help of Spire, in another car. When I say supporting in an alliance, it’s really to make sure that all of Zane’s opportunities, development and experiences next year is in the context of him learning in his first year in the Cup Series and becoming a Trackhouse driver under our roof.”
The 24-year-old Smith is the reigning Truck champion. He finished second in the championship in 2020 and ’21. He’s among the final eight drivers in this year’s Truck playoffs.
Smith has nine Truck wins in 89 series starts. He has made seven Cup starts, scoring a career-best 10th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 for Front Row Motorsports.
Smith was developed by Ford, rising through the ranks with its teams. With nowhere to put him in Cup or Xfinity, he will move to Trackhouse Racing and Chevrolet next year.
Trackhouse’s signing of Smith comes three days after the team announced it had signed Shane van Gisbergen to a development deal in 2024. The plan is to have van Gisbergen drive in Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck, ARCA and Late Model races.
“There’s a lot of unknowns around Shane and his development, how he’s going to do on the ovals, is he going to enjoy it,” Marks said. “There’s so many unknowns around him. I’m really excited about that program, but that’s one that we’re just going to have to see how it plays out.”
Spire Motorsports’ purchase continues its active participation in the charter market.
Spire Motorsports formed after it purchased the charter from Furniture Row Racing in Dec. 2018 for $6 million.
Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets from Leavine Family Racing in August 2020 and began fielding a two-car operation in the 2021 season. Spire Motorsports also purchased the charter from JTG Daugherty Racing, which cut back to a single-car team after the 2020 season. Spire leased that charter to Trackhouse Racing so that team could debut in 2021 with the No. 99 car.
Kaulig Racing announced in June 2021 it had purchased two charters from Spire Motorsports to compete in the 2022 season. Those are the charters for the No. 16 and 31 Kaulig cars. That left Spire Motorsports with the charter for the No. 7 team. Spire expanded to a two-car team in 2022 when it purchased a charter from Rick Ware Racing.
Charter sales have slowed because of the uncertainty of the charter’s future. NASCAR’s charter agreement with teams goes through next season. No new deal has been completed and is not expected to be done until after NASCAR’s TV rights deal is completed.
Cup owners skipped a quarterly meeting with NASCAR in April as a sign of displeasure with the progress of their revenue and charter talks. Cup executives remain frustrated at the delay in getting a deal done.
Bill Anthony, president of Spire Motorsports said the team’s purchase of another charter shows its faith in the system.
“Certainly, I was going to say a double down on the future of the sport, I guess it’s a triple down now,” he said. “It’s a showing a belief in the sport. That’s not to say there’s a lot of work that needs to be done with NASCAR and the charter agreement, but I think we believe in all of the people in the garage and all of the people in NASCAR.”