How Much Does It Cost To Run A NASCAR Team?

Owning and running a NASCAR team, whether at the Cup, Xfinity, or Truck Series level, is not cheap. You must account for building and maintaining a car, as well as hiring team members like mechanics and builders. There are a lot of factors that go into how much it costs to run a NASCAR team.

To run a NASCAR Cup Team over one season will cost you over $18 million if you are looking at every aspect of the operation. The Xfinity and Truck Series, while pricey, will cost less, but you are still facing at least seven figures in annual costs in each of NASCAR’s top three series.

Below, we will outline the total costs of starting and running a NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Truck Series team. We will outline everything, from the build of the initial car to the costs of travel and maintaining a shop throughout the duration of a single season.

How Much Does It Cost To Start A NASCAR Cup Team?

It costs millions of dollars to start a NASCAR Cup Series team. It may cost around $400,000 per race, which over the course of a full NASCAR season can end up costing a total of more than $15 million. This is just a rough estimate, as top teams likely spend much more than this.

NASCAR Cup teams, like many start-up businesses, may struggle out the gate if they don’t have a major name backing them. One reason is that, for NASCAR Cup teams to remain relevant long-term, they need to win over sponsors, finish well at events, and build a fan base.

Sometimes, big-name drivers will start their own teams. It was something Bill Elliott did when he started Bill Elliott Racing with Dan Marino in 1995. However, Elliott’s team did not last, and the team closed its doors in 2000.

Other drivers have tried to field successful NASCAR teams and barely made a blip on the circuit. Kirk Shelmerdine Racing gained traction in 2004, but by 2006, he was on the verge of selling his team had he not earned a spot in that season’s Daytona 500.

Drivers, well-known or not, will find themselves operating with heavy losses when they start a NASCAR team. And if they can’t recoup those funds, they are not going to last. Elliott sold his team to Ray Evernham following the 2000 season. Shelmerdine’s assets were sold in 2010.

Starting A NASCAR Team (Numbers)

On average, to operate the new team for a full NASCAR season, you would need $400,000 per race. Multiply that number by 39 (36 NASCAR Cup Events, 2 exhibition races, 1 qualifying race), and you get $15.6 million. This is a fair bit more than it costs to run an IndyCar team, but it’s far cheaper than running an F1 team, which has a budget cap of nearly 10 times that!

However, this is on the low end of the spectrum. For example, one particular NASCAR team, BK Racing, spent $18.1 million in 2016,and they were not a big name in the industry. Top-end, multicar teams may spend double or triple this over a season. The good news is, if you can secure big-time sponsorship, then you may see a good return on your investment if your cars finish well.

Startup Costs For NASCAR Cup Teams

Now that you know the costs of running a full NASCAR season, you also need to calculate what goes into the number listed above. Your startup costs would include money for a shop, builders, specialists, crew members, equipment, haulers, airfare, hotel, and transportation expenses.

Think of the above list as an including, but not limited to list. Just as life throws you curveballs, the same goes for starting a NASCAR team. It would be safe to assume an extra 20% on top of this estimate wouldn’t be unheard of for a NASCAR team to spend in a year.

Car Expenses

You will likely need between $60,000 and $150,000 to buy the engine and gearbox for each car, and teams may use more than 13 per year, meaning it can cost millions of dollars just for the engines for a full season. Assuming you plan on running a full inaugural season, you also need about $780,000 worth of tires.

Your entire NASCAR car would cost about $400,000, which includes the chassis and other vital parts. Most new NASCAR teams low on funds will probably use one car. However, established teams will take backup cars to each event, which doubles the costs.

Team Expenses

You need to surround yourself with good employees, and one NASCAR team will have dozens. These employees comprise hourly, contracted, or salaried workers. For your pit crew members alone, you likely need at least $80,000 for each member, plus money to invest in their special fire suits.

The cost of fire suits alone will reach $400,000 total, plus another $2,500 in cleaning expenses after each race. Multiply $2,500 by 39, and it gives you $97,500. And this doesn’t count paying the builders, engineers, aerodynamic, and tire specialists.

A NASCAR mechanic’s starting salary is somewhere around $45,000. However, specialists’ salaries start at closer to $100,000. If you have four specialists, that’s another $400,000 in salaries at the low end, plus $45,000 multiplied by the number of mechanics you have on board. With two mechanics, you need at least $90,000.

Besides the team and the builders, you also have the crew chief and driver to pay. On the low end, crew chiefs earn about $200,000 per season. You will also need a driver. When starting out, you won’t get a big name given the overall costs, but expect at least $260,000 for an average driver.

Travel Expenses

You also need to have enough money for travel expenses. Fortunately, these expenses are minute compared to everything listed above. Expect to spend $150,000 in your first season on travel. With 39 events, divide $150,000 by 39, which gives you nearly $4,000 in weekly expenses.

You should also keep money on hand in case anything travel-wise goes awry. Flights get canceled, haulers break down, and consolations may need to be made once you arrive at the site of the next race.

Shop Expenses

Every NASCAR team needs a shop for the mechanics and builders to make necessary changes to the car before they haul it off to the next event. You also need a place to store all of your car’s equipment. For a small body shop of 2,000 square feet, you will pay an average of $15 per square foot. This runs $30,000 per month, which equals $360,000 per year.

Total Startup Costs For A NASCAR Cup Team

Startup costs for a NASCAR Cup Team on the low end of the spectrum are as follows:

Full-Season Car Expenses: $15,600,000

With up to 39 events, full-season expenses break down to $400,000 per week. You need this money to provide appropriate maintenance to your car. If your driver crashes out of the race, this money will be geared toward repairs.

You would also invest this expense into maintaining the car’s chassis, engine, and gearboxes. Plus, you need this money to replace vital car parts throughout your first season. The cost of tires, at about $20,000 per race, is factored in too.

Startup Car Expenses: $400,000

This section differs from the above, as it covers the total initial cost of building the car. So, think of it as $400,000 for the first build, then an additional $400,000 per week for the full-season expenses.

Team Expenses: $2,000,000

From your driver to your builders, team expenses involve paying employees. While you could go lower than the $2,000,000 cost, you need to consider the quality of who you are hiring.

While you wouldn’t be able to afford the highest-quality employees early on, you still need a team with enough experience to grow your organization. Therefore, it is always wise to pay a little more, even in the startup run, for respectable quality if it means long-term profits.

Travel Expenses: $197,000

This is perhaps the most underrated expense of starting a NASCAR Cup team. However, it is the most important, as you need to get your entire team to the site of the next race. Travel sometimes involves unexpected changes. So, the startup travel budget may not be that accurate for every team, but it is there as a rough guide.

Shop Expenses: $360,000

This is where your mechanics and specialists will build your car. It is also a place where your pit crew will train and choreograph their stops for the upcoming race. The number shown is on the lowest end of the spectrum and it can vary depending on the shop’s total square footage.

When you add the numbers of all five sub-headings, you get a grand total of $18,607,000 in expenses for both startup and maintenance costs for your first NASCAR Cup Series season.

Your Return On Investment

If you looked at the above number and cringed, you are not alone. Few people have that much money to start up a NASCAR Cup Series team. However, you will hopefully find willing investors that have always wanted to own or run a NASCAR team. Further, many businesspeople are not worried about the industry they invest in if they believe they will turn a profit.

So, if you can gather a group of investors passionate about either owning a Cup Series team or growing their finances, they will likely help split the bill. Also, you will sign sponsors who will help pay for the car’s upkeep, and that will help save you even more money. However, you must attract sponsors, and this is one other reason it is important to hire a solid team, even if they cost a little more than baseline.

Finally, your driver will earn a certain amount of money with each lap they complete. Even if they finish in the lower half of the field, they will still earn a large sum of money for the team. So, while the above costs might be heart-stopping, every dollar earned will cut those costs.

How Much Does It Cost To Start A NASCAR Xfinity Team?

It costs millions of dollars to start a competitive NASCAR Xfinity team, even though it’s not NASCAR’s top series. Although cars in the NASCAR Xfinity Series cost less, it’s likely that a team’s budget is still around a third or more of a Cup Series’ team’s, so around $5-10 million per year.

Startup Expenses For The Car

For a NASCAR Cup Series car, you will spend an estimated $400,000 for a high-quality car. Xfinity cars, however, are not the same as Cup Series cars, even if they look alike at first glance. Xfinity cars are often smaller, but they are still similar to their Cup Series counterparts. Some teams may pay the same amount for an Xfinity Series car but generally it costs between $200,000 and $300,000.

Do Xfinity Team Members Cost Less?

The NASCAR Cup Series is at the top of the organizational pyramid. So, the best builders, pit crew members, drivers, and engineers end up there and demand top dollar. The Xfinity Series is a step below the Cup Series, so you will pay less for your team members, but the total costs will likely still be in the high six-figure range – if not more.

How Much Does It Cost To Run A NASCAR Truck Team?

It costs between $3 million and $5 million per year to run a NASCAR truck team. This number is based off costs suggested by two team owners in 2017, and so the costs are likely to have risen since then. However, there’s no doubt that to be competitive a team must spend millions of dollars.

The NASCAR Truck Series makes up NASCAR’s third tier. If you compare NASCAR to professional hockey, think of the NASCAR Truck Series as equivalent to professional hockey’s East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) or Double-A Minor League Baseball.

The NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series require different costs, with an Xfinity Series team on the cheaper end of the spectrum. The truck series will cost substantially less, as they run just 23 events, which is fewer events than even the Xfinity Series schedule.

Cost Of Running A NASCAR Truck Team

Fortunately, the cost of running a NASCAR truck team is more clear-cut than that of an Xfinity team because Cup Series drivers often own and sometimes race for their truck teams. Kyle Busch reported the costs to be around $3.2, while Brad Keselowski said it cost closer to $4.5 million. Both of these numbers are from 2017, so it’s likely the costs may be slightly higher now.  

In 2009, the average cost per Truck Series race was roughly $100,000. Since 2009, the price of doing business has risen because of inflation, among other things.So, with adjusted inflation at about 34% between 2009 and 2022, the cost per race in 2022 would be closer to $134,000.

Multiply 134,000 by 23, and you get $3,082,000 in truck expenses. One reason it does not cost as much to maintain a truck is that their races are substantially shorter than both Cup and Xfinity races, plus the fact they run just 23 events per year.

Total Estimated NASCAR Truck Series Costs

Truck Maintenance And Repairs: $3 million

As time moves forward, the cost of truck maintenance and repairs will rise because of inflation.However, you will not see a massive rise on a year-to-year basis.

Truck Startup Expense: $125,000-$150,000

This is how much you can expect the initial build to cost, complete with the engine, chassis, body, and other parts. The higher end of startup costs in the truck series runs at about $150,000 and closer to $125,000 on the lower end.

Team Expenses: $850,000

With fewer and shorter races, team expenses will not run as high as they do in the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series. This number will rise as you progress as a team and look for more experience. But starting off, you can keep this under seven figures when you’re starting out.

Travel Expenses: $120,000

You still need to set aside six figures in travel expenses if you plan on racing an entire NASCAR Truck Series season. However, as you can see, the expenses are just a fraction of what it would cost to travel a 39-event season in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Shop Expenses: $360,000

NASCAR trucks are no smaller than Xfinity or Cup Series cars. Therefore, you will still need the same amount of square footage in your shop for your builders and mechanics to work on the truck.

To run a full season in the NASCAR Truck Series, you would need about $4,500,000 in startup costs. While the number pales in comparison to the NASCAR Cup Series, remember that the Truck Series does not have the same prestige and, as a result, it brings in less money to cover these costs if you can’t consistently perform well.  

How Much Does It Cost To Run A One-Car NASCAR Team?

It costs about $15 million to run a one-car NASCAR team, and that’s in the middle of the scale. It’s likely to cost upwards of $20 million if you want to perform consistently at the front of the pack. Many NASCAR teams field just one car to keep weekly maintenance costs down.

However, as you sign sponsors, compete in races, and receive a sound return on investment, you will be able to afford better builders, team members, and equipment. The costs shown above would grow naturally, as they are very much linked to your team’s growth and performance.

Final Thoughts

It costs around $15 million to run a NASCAR team, but it can cost upwards of $20 million. Whether you are owning a NASCAR Cup team, an Xfinity team, or a Truck Series team, it is not a cheap endeavor. Even the Xfinity and Truck Series cost seven figures to start and maintain through one season.