Apr 24, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT
Brandon Davis did all he could to keep Swan Racing afloat. But even a multi-millionaire oil and gas industrialist can only bleed so much money before deciding to throw a red flag on the operation.
When anticipated funding and sponsorship failed to materialize, the two-team Sprint Cup operation sank so fast that Davis had no other choice but to essentially go out of business.
That’s what Davis told NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello in the most revealing and expansive explanation of why the two-car Swan operation failed, and why Davis was forced to sell or merge its two cars with other organizations.
“It went from a lot of fun to a nightmare in a matter of months,” Davis told NASCAR.com. “I’m not going to point my finger in any one direction. It was just the overall thing, probably adding two cars, etc. … There were challenges there.”
After Davis purchased the assets of Inception Motorsports in 2012, he continued to field a one-car operation in 2013 with several different drivers through the course of the season.
However, Davis had bigger aspirations for Swan in 2014.
After taking on minority investors/partners Anthony Marlowe and former NFL great Bill Romanowski, and then securing an investment/sponsorship deal with rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Swan grew to a two-car operation in 2014 with rookies Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt behind the wheel.
As both drivers struggled on the racetrack, so did efforts to attract sponsorship or additional investors. Little success on the racetrack isn’t exactly a great lure for companies to spend their money on. All the while, Davis tried to continue bankrolling the team from his own oil and gas company, Swan Energy (hence the name of the team).
But it quickly became much more of a financial drain than Davis anticipated, essentially twice the amount of what he spent on a one-car operation last season. Everything was doubled from 2013 to 2014, including cars, drivers, expenses, employees and overall costs. And when anticipated sponsorship failed to come through, things went from bad to worse in a hurry.
“It started in Daytona, and things that were supposed to happen didn’t,” Davis told NASCAR.com. “It kind of snowballed from there, I guess, and it kept getting worse, not better.”
While his race operation struggled, Davis’ energy company was experiencing growth and demands that took more of his time.
“From a time perspective, my company has grown a lot, even since January as far as Swan Energy, and my other oil company,” Davis said. “The time necessity, for what I needed to do and the time I needed to spend with the race team and working on it, I just haven’t had.
“So it kind of all came to a head the week before Texas, and that’s when we started trying to figure out what do we need to do to ensure as many people stay employed as possible, and to keep the cars on track.”
To his credit, Davis worked feverishly to find jobs with other teams for as many of his now-former employees as he could.
“My first mission was to make sure everybody had a job,” he said. “That was No. 1, and not just kill it and let them go figure it out for themselves.
“From that, we’re going to let the dust settle, I guess, and see. I don’t know. I can’t tell you (what his racing future – if any – holds).”
Davis turned over ownership of Whitt’s No. 26 Toyota to Marlowe, who merged earlier this week with BK Racing, going from a two- to three-car operation.
Whitt will continue driving the No. 26, competing in Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Meanwhile, Davis sold the No. 30 team – but without Kligerman as the driver — to John Cohen, owner of XxxTreme Motorsports.
With the sale, Kligerman is out of a job, as J.J. Yeley will drive the No. 30 Toyota starting this weekend in Richmond (the car number will switch back to XxxTreme’s former number of 44 starting next week at Talladega).
“Will I be around the track? Yeah, I plan on helping John as much as I can,” Davis said. “I like John, he’s a great guy, and I want to support him as much as I’m able to. So yeah, I’ll be around. As far as Swan having a race car on the track, at this point I have no loose plans, or any plans.”
XxxTreme has attempted to qualify for four races thus far this season, and failed to do so each time.
As for Kligerman, he’ll remain under contract to Davis for the meantime – although he doesn’t have a car to drive. But Davis is also giving the young driver the opportunity to explore any and all other options.
“For me, it just quit being fun,” Davis said of his ultimate decision to close up shop. “I just didn’t enjoy going to the racetrack.
“Whenever I got to the racetrack and didn’t enjoy it, that’s when all the thoughts started racing through my head of — what did I do here, and how do I fix it? … At the end of the day, this one (parceling off the two teams) kept the most people working and had the most cooperation from the other parties.”
When NASCAR.com asked Davis if expanding to two cars proved to be too much, too fast and too soon, his brief answer told the entire tale:
“Yes. Most definitely.”
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