TALLADEGA, Ala. – James Finch, the defending winner owner of this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, is putting his Phoenix Racing operation up for sale.
For a price, the new owner would acquire a 70,000 sq. ft. building complete with 35 race cars, all the machinery and two houses on nine acres in Spartanburg, S.C.
"I've had a real good time," Finch said. "But it's time to do something else. Offer me a fair price -- then give me half and we'll have a deal."
Finch fielded cars for a variety of drivers in NASCAR's Cup and Nationwide Series as well as ARCA. He won 12 NNS races with six different drivers on nine different tracks. But his most coveted win came at Talladega last year as Finch provided rookie Brad Keselowski with an opportunity to earn his first Sprint Cup victory.
"Without him, I couldn't be here. I've had a lot of cool car owners and without James I wouldn't be where I am today and I appreciate that."
Finch took his entire share of the $312, 075 purse and offered it to Keselowski for his parents, lifelong racers who campaigned in ARCA and NASCAR with their family-owned operation. Keselowski made his NASCAR debut behind the wheel of the K Automotive Ford truck in 2004 at Martinsville.
"I did some cool things for my parents with that," Keselowski added. "That was something I was proud to be able to do -- to help them out financially because they're going through some hard times. It's cool to be able to be there for them."
Finch said he always aspired to win a race at Daytona at the Cup level and his Phoenix Racing cars were always perennial favorites at restrictor-plate tracks. But after 20 years of competition in NASCAR, Finch has no unrealistic expectations -- particularly after losing the Miccosukee Casino and Resort sponsorship at the start of the season.
"It was meant for me to win Talladega and not Daytona -- but that was a lifetime dream," Finch said. "I just don't want to go broke trying to outrun the manufacturers -- whether that's Jack Roush (with Ford), Rick Hendrick (Chevrolet), Joe Gibbs (Toyota) or Roger Penske (Dodge). I don't have a sponsor and to rent a motor is $100,000 a race (from the top engine builders). I feel like I've been run out of business. You have to do business with them to run up front and that's too expensive. We use to run 175 miles per hour for a 20th of a price. And now we're running 190 miles per hour and it's $225,000 to run all your stuff."
James Buescher is Finch's latest protege. The 20-year-old from Plano, Texas, finished the last two races of the season for Finch in the NNS and is currently 19th in the point standings. His best finish this season was eighth at Daytona.
Buescher believes it will be a tremendous loss for the sport should Finch retire.
"A lot of big name drivers have come through Phoenix Racing," Buescher said. "They've made a name for themselves along the way and have been able to move to the next level. So his contribution to the sport has been pretty cool."
Finch admits he doesn't need the money to go racing. He's just tired of supporting his hobby out of his pocket. And he misses the old days with his friends Dale Earnhardt and Neil Bonnett. But the longer he stays in NASCAR, the faces are becoming less familiar.
"I've probably had 100 drivers in my time and I've had a lot of fun, but if you can't be competitive you might as well quit," Finch said. If you can't win a race, you can't attract any sponsors.
"I will probably be the last independent to ever win a Cup race. Joe America can't afford to race any more. I'm going to race Talladega out of my own pocket but if I can graciously get out, I will go on down the road. I'm in the business to have fun and I'm going to go where I can find fun."