Sunday, 19 January 2020

NASCAR Cup Series: Have StarCom Racing reached a plateau? – Beyond the Flag

NASCAR Cup Series: Have StarCom Racing reached a plateau? – Beyond the Flag
28 Oct

It was at Kansas Speedway two years ago when StarCom Racing made the leap from occasional sponsor of NASCAR veteran Derrike Cope to a full-scale NASCAR Cup Series operation. Have they reached their maximum potential with the resources they have?

With only four races left in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, StarCom Racing will be concluding their second full season with a better results benchmark, given this is their first season with one driver, Landon Cassill, completing the entire season.

Despite the experience Cassill brings to the table, it looks like StarCom Racing may soon be reaching a performance standstill, despite the benefits of a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

In an era of shrinking entry lists and barriers to creating a competitive stock car operation, the news of StarCom Racing was a welcoming one at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The StarCom Racing owners seemed satisfied with the results of their primary sponsorship of Derrike Cope in three races for Premium Motorsports earlier in the season, starting at Pocono Raceway in June.

While the team fell out of the October race at Kansas Speedway with mechanical issues early with team manager Cope driving, they finished out their brief part-time campaign with a respectable 32nd place result at ISM Raceway. The pieces had been put together for a full-scale 2018 operation.

In their official rookie campaign, the acquisition of a charter from Richard Childress Racing meant stronger financial returns and guaranteed starting spots for the #00 Chevrolet Camaro. The team soon announced the signing of Jeffrey Earnhardt to pilot the car full-time. This opened the door for the part-time #99 Chevrolet to be piloted by Cope and drivers with funding available.

Despite a strong 21st place finish in the 2018 Daytona 500 and consistent results to open the season, Earnhardt and the team parted ways after five races, as funding from VRX Simulators faded. The unemployed Cassill received the call and put up respectable results in his 29-race season, which included four starts in the #99 Chevrolet. He impressively managed two top 20 finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Joey Gase and Tomy Drissi also took the reigns of the #00 Chevrolet, with Gase also collecting a top 20 finish at the Talladega Superspeedway.

The #99 Chevrolet had five different pilots over the course of 18 races, highlighted by a 26th place finish by Kyle Weatherman at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a 22nd place finish at Talladega Superspeedway by Cassill.

Gray Gaulding and Garrett Smithley also logged starts along with Cope, who finished his lengthy NASCAR career in Bojangles throwback colors at Darlington Raceway.

In the rookie campaign of the #00 team, they managed a 34th place finish in the owner standings, outpacing two other full-time teams. They managed three top 20 finishes and an average finish of 29.9. The #99 team recorded three top 30 finishes i 18 starts and an average finish of 32.9.

The number #99 pay-to-drive machine was put on the back burner for the 2019 season to put complete focus into the team’s #00 team. They have been able to convert this decision into a slight performance increase in 2019, which has been helped by a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

While Cassill posted the team’s best finish of 11th place at Daytona International Speedway in July, he and the team have struggled to make huge gains from the 2018 season. Cassill’s average finish is 29.4, slightly improved from the #00 team’s average finish of 29.9 in 2018.

Additionally, they are up just one position in the owner standings in 33rd place. Where they have improved is in mid-pack consistency. The #00 team has recorded 19 top 30 finishes, up from 14 through the October race at Kansas Speedway last year.

The proof is in the numbers that StarCom Racing have made steady improvements. They currently outpace Rick Ware Racing and Spire Motorsports and are competitive with the seasoned Premium Motorsports. However, they must make drastic improvements to move up the owner standings in the future.

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It seems a bit too early to call StarCom Racing’s progress leveled off, but 2020 will be a true test of the team’s capabilities. We await to hear who will be piloting the #00 Chevrolet Camaro next year, but Landon Cassill has proven mid-pack potential out of this small Salisbury, North Carolina team. The best answer to any critics would be for the team to snag a top 30 in the owner standings, which may even have them outpace fellow Richard Childress Racing technical partner Richard Petty Motorsports if they fail to improve next year.



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