Here’s a good question, why is the most controversial team in NASCAR one that doesn’t even average over a 30th place finish each week? Rick Ware Racing has become a pariah on the NASCAR Cup Series with them fielding four-car entries with multiple different drivers playing musical chairs each week. They currently own four charters that they are holding for a king’s ransom, but it looks like they’re about to make a fortune from it.
To the team’s credit, they may have found a way to catapult themselves from a bottom feeder team to a mid-pack team overnight. When the charter system was announced, the team bought four at retail price with the correct expectation that the value will go up in the coming years. Now they are sitting with highly coveted charters that are currently estimated to be worth at least $10 million each.
Recently, Cody Ware came out and said that the team plans to downsize to just two cars in 2022, with the hopes of running competitive cars compared to what they have been running. If this is the case, then RWR may be selling two of their charters for up to $20 million and walking away with enough money to make drastic upgrades to their program. It’s the only instance of a team somewhat manipulating the system to make their way up the NASCAR ranks, and while it’s being viewed as a slimy business practice, if it works out it’s kind of genius.
Now, the big question is how much improvement can RWR make in a year? Their cars are essentially roadblocks to the rest of the field at the current moment, but $20 million can make a lot of difference in a team and their equipment if they know how to use it. Realistically they could go to a top 25 team with the right moves being made and set themselves up for gradual growth.
The elephant in the room is that no matter how good your equipment is if you have a bad driver it won’t matter. With two cars being fielded and an RWR driver pool full of six different names, the team will have a big decision to make.
Currently the team fields cars for:
- Cody Ware
- James Davison
- Josh Bilicki
- J.J. Yeley
- Garrett Smithley
- Joey Gase
They have fielded cars for a few other guys, but it’s been in just one-off races. These six names are the guys that seem to be in house weekly even if they are not in the car. So, Cody Ware seems a lock for one car, unless he decides to retire from the racing side of the family business, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. That leaves one of the other five names taking over the second car unless another free agent is brought in.
I think that it’s safe to go ahead and rule out Joey Gase and Garrett Smithley. Gase has proven to be incredibly below average without sponsorship and done virtually nothing in his time compared to the other drivers. Smithley’s numbers have been on par with everyone else’s but he has no sponsorship which is what I think ups every other driver’s chances. So, the real players in this deal are James Davison, Josh Bilicki, and J.J. Yeley.
Davison can say he won a race in an RWR car. It was on the Chicago Road Course in dominating fashion on iRacing. It doesn’t count, but he has shown promise on road courses in real life with his experience in IndyCar and Sportscar series where he has had decent success. Driving for teams that aren’t top equipment, he’s been able to put up decent results outside of stock cars. If you takeaway J.J. Yeley’s dirt career, he might be the most accomplished driver in the RWR garage.
With the series growth into road course racing, and that being the second-best equalizer form of racing outside of restrictor-plate racing, having Davison behind the wheel possibly gives the team their best chance of winning a race, assuming they upgrade their equipment to middle of the pack.
Josh Bilicki is a guy I think might have the best shot due to his sponsorship with Insurance King. He’s also one of the hardest prospects to figure out. If you track his progress down to Trucks, he had horrible runs with Reaume Brothers Racing. I mean so bad, that Jesse Iwuji actually has better stats than him in the same truck. I like Iwuji as a person, but I’ve watched him race live and it is noticeable how significantly slower he is than every other car on the track.
You then look at his stats in Xfintiy and it’s a complete 180, he is the strongest driver on teams like B.J. Mcleod Motorsports. While the competition isn’t stiff, he still looked significantly better than anyone else that got behind the wheel.
Now, in Cup he once again goes to having the worst average finish of any other driver at RWR. It’s so difficult to judge the talent level of Bilicki, because much like Davison, he does decent road course pedigree, but doesn’t have any wins or podiums to back that up.
The wildcard is Yeley in all of this, who to this day I still don’t understand why he hasn’t tried to go back down and race in the dirt. He currently sports the best average finish at RWR, but in only 5 races. At 44-years old, I don’t think that he’s going to win this ride, but he comes with some sponsorship that he could possibly be convinced to up their deals.
Outside of the Bristol Dirt race, he doesn’t have a type of race advantage over his peers. He does come with the most experience of any other RWR driver. How much does that experience matter? I have no idea, but it’s something to keep in mind. I don’t think Yeley will end up in the ride, but he’s a legitimate option and worth noting.
So, in my opinion, the choice comes down to James Davison and Josh Bilicki. Neither driver has championship potential, I don’t think either one is a super talented driver. I think that the decision will come down to money and who brings the most. With that being said, I think Josh Bilicki is going to end up in the revamped RWR second car.
Now, who I think should get it, is James Davison. While I don’t think I can call Davison a uber-talented driver, he is more talented with a higher upside than Bilicki. He also gives them the best chance to get an underdog win at a road course. The money that Bilicki brings coupled with the issues that he and Cody Ware have had this season at Martinsville specifically, makes me think he will not be getting the ride.