Swan Racing struggles reportedly worsen, future uncertain

4 Comments

The future of Swan Racing in Sprint Cup racing is not looking good.

The team issued a statement Thursday that it was reevaluating its future after expected sponsorship for the two-car operation of rookies Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman failed to materialize.

Afterward, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Dave Moody, host of SiriusXM Speedway, said in his blog, “Team employees were reportedly informed (Thursday) that the team is suspending operations, and many of them are already seeking employment with other teams.”

Moody added, “(the team) may not compete in the circuit’s next race at Richmond International Raceway on April 26.”

A number of different scenarios appear to be in play.

One would be complete suspension of both teams.

A second option would be to perhaps condense operations and field only one driver, most likely Cole Whitt (photo).

Shortly after team majority owner Brandon Davis issued the statement that the organization was evaluating its options, Swan minority owner Anthony Marlowe tweeted, “My mission is to ensure @ColeWhitt races in every #NASCAR Sprint Cup event this season.”

A third option, according to sources close to Moody, “there is a possibility that Whitt’s No. 26 Toyota could be absorbed into the existing BK Racing operation, if Swan Racing is unable to continue.”

Where any of those options leave Kligerman remains uncertain.

The Swan saga appears to be one of moving too fast, too soon. Davis purchased the assets of Inception Motorsports in 2012 and rebranded it as Swan Racing, with David Stremme continuing on as its driver.

Swan remained a one-car operation in 2013, although Stremme left the team after the race at Atlanta, with several other drivers filling in for the remainder of the season including Michael Waltrip, Kevin Swindell, Kligerman and Whitt.

Swan became a two-car operation in 2014 – adding minority owners Marlowe, former NFL star Bill Romanowski and rapper 50 Cent – with Whitt and Kligerman both running full-time schedules and each vying for the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors.

Whitt is 33rd in the Sprint Cup points standings, with a season-best finish thus far of 18th at Fontana last month.

Kligerman, however, has struggled terribly, failing to finish four of the first eight races, and has yet to finish the full length of any race, often winding up several laps behind the lead lap.

His best finish to date was 29th at Daytona, although that was a DNF. His best overall finish without a DNF was last Saturday at Darlington, where he wound up 30th. Kligerman is ranked 38th in the Cup standings heading into Richmond.

While hopes and expectations were high for Swan entering the 2014 season, this week’s events paint a dismal future in the short term – if there’s any type of future remaining at all.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.