With Furniture Row Racing closing doors after the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series season, its #78 charter needed to find a new home. On Tuesday evening, it has apparently found it. According to reports from ESPN, management agency Spire Sports + Entertainment has purchased the charter, which will guarantee its car a spot in every race in 2019, and will field the #77. Reported by NBC Sports’ Dustin Long to be a Chevrolet, other details including a team identity, driver, and alliance have not been revealed. The charter sale, reported by NBC to be the most expensive in NASCAR history, was made in September, per tweets from Catchfence.com’s Chris Knight.
Spire, which has clients in music and motorsport, represents various drivers in both cars and open-wheel cars. NASCAR drivers include Cup veterans Kyle Larson and Landon Cassill, Xfinity Series drivers Ross Chastain, Garrett Smithley, Vinnie Miller, and Justin Haley, Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Todd Gilliland, K&N Pro Series driver Cole Rouse, and Travis Braden of the ARCA Racing Series. Verizon IndyCar Series winner James Hinchcliffe and Mazda Road to Indy up-and-comer Oliver Askew are also represented by Spire.
The firm also serves as a team consultant for NASCAR organisations like FRR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, GMS Racing, and ThorSport Racing. Larson’s dirt track team Larson Marks Racing and Knoxville Raceway also receive consulting from Spire, as does Toyota Racing Development. As a brand consultant, Spire’s clients included 5-hour Energy and Auto-Owners Insurance, which sponsored FRR during its existence, and Ganassi sponsors Eneos and DC Solar.
While there is little pattern in all of its clients, there is some overlap: Larson and Chastain, albeit in different series, are Ganassi drivers, while Smithley and Miller are team-mates at JD Motorsports.
Ty Norris, a former executive for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Michael Waltrip Racing, is Spire’s President, while agent Jeff Dickerson, a former spotter for Jeff Gordon, founded the agency. T.J. Puchyr, an associate of the now-defunct Braun Motorsports, is also involved in the operation.
“This is a very interesting move,” NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck tweeted in response to the news. “Spire consists of people who have been on the team side, marketing side, sponsor side, driver representation side…now they’re going to have a race team. An agency getting into team ownership…that’s different, but also quite fascinating.”
The #77 was formerly used by FRR in 2017 for rookie Erik Jones. Sponsored by 5-hour Energy for much of the season, he finished nineteenth in points before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing.