Garrett Horton · Tuesday October 5, 2010
When NASCAR announced in 2005 that it was setting a limit on the number of cars a team could own, its goal was to prevent powerhouse organizations from dominating over the lower-funded, single-car underdogs. The move was a popular decision at the time, as it appeared multi-car team owners were beginning to wield too much power and influence within the sport. After all, Jack Roush’s fleet occupied half of all Chasers in ’05 (there were only 10 cars in the Chase at the time) and combined with fellow giant Hendrick Motorsports, they won 25 of the 36 events. It was time to keep the little guys in the game, and NASCAR was positive this move would work.
Yet here we are, five years later, and the big players like Roush, Hendrick, Gibbs, and Childress are still the ones winning races and competing for championships. Part of it can be blamed on the economy, but the larger teams have maintained that advantage NASCAR was trying hard to take away. With money being tighter than ever, single-car teams are struggling to find sponsorship and simply can’t run the full season anymore. Now, we see teams running 30 laps before they decide to start and park, fighting for garage space instead of even a spot in the top 25 each week. Gone are single-car owners Bill Davis, Morgan McClure, and Cal Wells, along with several less historic, longshot efforts that never exactly panned out. One of the most notable single-car teams of all time, the Wood Brothers, continue to race, but we aren’t seeing them every weekend like we used to just a few years ago.
Clearly, it appears the four-car limit isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.
We now have three single-car teams, one of which (Robby Gordon Motorsports) has resorted to start and parking on weekends when they can’t afford to race. JTG-Daugherty, another single-car effort driven by Marcos Ambrose, works closely with Michael Waltrip Racing and can hardly be considered a legitimate single-car team. That leaves Furniture Row Racing driven by Regan Smith as the only true “loner” operation remaining that’s running every race the full distance.
Of course, the four-car limit is not the sole reason for this problem. However, it is a clear indication that the ban has become pointless. If owners like Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush have the money to own more than four cars, then they should be allowed to. With uncertainty that we will even have a full 43-car field next year, it is important to let the strong teams field as many cars as they want. Otherwise, the start and parks will continue to increase and the integrity of our sport will take a hit.
Within the past week, rising Nationwide stars Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, and Brian Scott were either released or were allowed to look elsewhere to drive. Fortunately for Bayne, he quickly picked up a ride at Roush Fenway Racing for the rest of the season as well as 2011. With Bayne now on board and the sudden turnaround performance of 23-year-old Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Jack Roush has two young drivers in his farm system that he has no place for in Cup because he already fields four cars. One could argue that current Cup driver David Ragan is on the hot seat, but with Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards all making the Chase yet again, Roush already has a pretty solid fleet of drivers.
Scott, who found a ride at Kansas with RAB Racing, has been rumored to be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in some capacity next year. Gibbs, who has been cautious in adding an extra team on the Cup side, would most likely have Scott run in some select Nationwide races with the possibility of a few Cup events. JGR could add a rookie (or any driver for that matter) to Cup given the right amount of sponsorship, but because of the four-car rule, it seems pointless to further develop any others for competition.
Allgaier is perhaps most affected by the four-car rule. Remember last year when Hendrick had to let Brad Keselowski walk because he couldn’t field a fifth car for him? Because of the limitations, Keselowski ended up going to Roger Penske, where he is a teammate to Allgaier in the Nationwide Series. With Keselowski and Kurt Busch occupying Penske’s two Cup cars next year, it leaves Justin with no place within the organization unless sponsorship can be found. He is now out of work for 2011 when he could be competing for Rookie of the Year without Keselowski’s presence.
Richard Childress is one team everyone should keep an eye on in the next few years. They just signed Paul Menard and his family-owned home improvement chain as a sponsor, giving RCR four teams for 2011. But Childress also has his two grandchildren, Austin and Ty Dillon, beginning to make a name for themselves. Austin has won two races in the Camping World Truck Series as a rookie this season and currently sits fourth in the series standings. His younger brother, Ty, recently picked up his first win in the K&N Pro Series East, which is becoming an excellent development division for younger drivers. For both Dillons, the fact they both drive a black No. 3 car and that they are related to a significant car owner makes them marketable, easily able to attract major sponsorship. Both will be in the Cup Series one day, but who would they replace at Childress?
Of course, some teams such as Penske couldn’t run more than four cars even if they wanted to. Would they fall victim to teams that could? It is impossible to know for sure, but in Penske’s case, considering that they are backed by Dodge and the amount of money Roger puts into his current operation, it seems unlikely that they would lose their competitive edge. Other two-car teams such as Stewart-Haas and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing also put a lot of time and money into their efforts. Along with Penske, they all have a “brand name” and will continue to be involved in the sport for a long time.
As the 2010 season winds down, we are looking at a surplus of talent with a shortage of rides available to them. By my count, it looks like we will have 29 cars from multi-car teams that will race for wins next year. So it is time for NASCAR to lift this ban and let car owners field as many entries as they want. The worst thing that could happen is that the bigger teams win all the races and run off the smaller ones. Oh wait, that’s already happened; so why keep living our lives in denial?
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