Commentary

Want a Cup car? Team owners unloading inventory at bargain-basement prices

Richard Childress guessed right when he suspected way back in February that NASCAR would employ the Car of Tomorrow full time in 2008. The payoff? Not much, writes Angelique Chengelis.

Updated: November 24, 2007, 10:20 PM ET
By Angelique Chengelis | ESPN.com

Give Richard Childress extra credit for thinking extra early.

The very-aware Nextel Cup team owner had a hunch way back in February that while the plan was to phase in the Car of Tomorrow over two seasons before switching to it full time in 2009, the move would be made next season.

He was right.

[+] EnlargeRichard Childress and Jeff Burton
John Harrelson/Getty ImagesRichard Childress, left, says he began unloading Car of Today inventory back in February -- months before NASCAR announced the Cup series would begin using the COT full time in 2008.

With that in mind, Childress decided he would take a shot and at least recoup some money.

"You got to be thinking way ahead," Childress said. "We started unloading in about February or March. ... We were unloading before [they announced the full-time move]. We unloaded everything that was for a mile track and [shorter]."

Childress said he had done a good job of depleting his inventory of what are now obsolete Cup cars. He is retaining a few for his grandson to race in the ARCA series and in the Busch East series. But the rest have had various destinations.

Like other owners, Childress said he has sold several cars to driving schools, and others to collectors. He said one purchaser bought all of the Richard Childress Racing road-course cars.

Other owners have sold cars at auction and, from all accounts, those were snatched up quickly at bargain-basement prices. About 350-400 Cup cars have flooded the market.

"It's definitely a buyer's market, especially for collectors," Childress said.

Clearly, this is not a seller's market. Owners said they never expected to recoup all of the money they had invested in those cars, but something, of course, is better than nothing.

Childress said he has, in most cases, recouped 25 cents to the dollar.

"Maybe 40 cents," he said.

In May, as he was preparing his Team Penske Indy Racing League drivers for the Indianapolis 500, team owner Roger Penske was concerned about what he would do with his extra Car of Today inventory at the end of the season.

There are only so many ARCA teams out there, after all.

"We can use some of the parts, like brakes, but then what do you do?" Penske said.

Penske mused that teams would have huge piles of cars and parts in scrap heaps.

Team owner Ray Evernham said he has recovered parts that they could recycle -- like brakes -- and sold those stripped-down cars for about $15,000.

No doubt a bargain.

"We're not going to recoup any money," Evernham said. "We can use some of the cars for development and for ARCA, but other than that, there's just not a lot you can do with them."

The biggest beneficiary has been teams in the ARCA series.

"You're going to see a lot of good ARCA races next year," Evernham said, smiling.

At Joe Gibbs Racing, team president J.D. Gibbs said some cars have been sold to ARCA teams, and others will be used in the Busch East series. The bottom line is, there are leftover cars and that should come as no surprise.

"We knew that going into it," Gibbs said.

Geoff Smith, president of Roush Fenway Racing, said that team owners simply have been "trying to keep a good face on." Collectors and ARCA teams have taken an insignificant amount of the Cup teams' inventories. The rest, he said, will be counted as financial losses.

"This is part of the COT transition that the teams have had to effectively absorb the costs," Smith said. "But we should begin to recover that each year based on NASCAR's financial theory behind the Car of Tomorrow."

Angelique S. Chengelis is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage.

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