The New Team Cap

October 13th, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: The New Team Cap

Different views over cap
Megateams: It penalizes success; Helton: It protects the small guys


KANSAS CITY, Kan. On Oct. 15, 2001 at Martinsville Speedway, Cal Wells fielded a winning car in only his 65th start in NASCAR's premier series when Ricky Craven visited victory lane. Roush Racing placed only one car in the top five.

On Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Roush's five-car conglomerate swept four of the top five spots. Wells' lone PPI Motorsports entry finished last with a blown engine, the latest in a seasonlong string of disappointments that has left the single-car team struggling to qualify every week without a guaranteed spot in the top 35.

The two races are separated by four years in which the rich and powerful megateams such as Roush have lapped the smaller, independent teams such as Wells through a multimillion-dollar expanse of engineering expertise and extra employees.

It's a results gap driven by boundless resources that NASCAR Chairman Brian France intends to close. The stock car czar said Saturday a cap on multicar teams is intended to "really benefit and help the Wood Brothers, the Pettys, Cal Wells and independent teams that are in ever-increasing difficulties to compete."

"Jack Roush has absolutely played by the rules," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "The problem is what the future of the sport is going to look like if you have that level of elites. We don't care if Jack's got five, six or 10 cars if it were good for the sport. But we don't think it's good, and we have to address that. That's a big move for us."

The proposed sea change, which could become official in a couple of weeks, already has brought howls about being singled out for success.

But though Jack Roush has won the past two championships and qualified all five cars for the Chase, the true poster boy for NASCAR's bombshell is Wells.

The Southern California native left behind a successful racing career in off road and Indy cars, shuttering a West Coast shop and moving to Hickory, N.C. Five years later, he barely is hanging on to a distant parking space on the fringe of the Cup garage, and he's not alone.

The last single-car owner to win a race was Wells with Craven at Darlington in 2003. Wood Brothers Racing is the only other single-car operation to win a race this decade (Bristol in 2001).

The lack of success has dovetailed with a lack of new blood. Before the 2006 debut of a team started by Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, Wells and Chip Ganassi have been the only outsiders in recent years to enter Cup with no previous NASCAR experience.

Alan Kulwicki, who swooped in from Wisconsin and won the 1992 championship as an owner-driver, was the last of the independents to shake up NASCAR. By holding Roush, Hendrick and Ganassi to three teams or fewer, France believes the "barriers to entry" will be removed for fresh faces willing to shoulder a hefty price tag (at least $15 million) for owning title-caliber cars.

"I believe NASCAR's desire is to see a David slay Goliath once a decade," Wells said. "From the end of the garage I'm at, naturally I would embrace [a limit]."

Wells believes a dozen owners - and not just the single-car brigade - would be helped by a cap. Robert Yates' two-car operation is six years removed from a title and was winless this year until Dale Jarrett finished first at Talladega. He supports a luxury-tax concept with exorbitant fees: "one car $7 million, a second for $30 million and third for $200 million."

"I think we ought to have 43 owners," Yates said. "I wish we'd never gotten to where I'm concerned if I don't own five cars, I don't have the resources or the energy to compete against a guy with five."

Wells doesn't begrudge the ambitions of seven owners who will control 25 of 43 entries next year, but he warns such consolidation is a dangerous trend.

"Jack Roush has earned every bit of it through blood, sweat and tears and significant personal investment," Wells said. "All that said, I don't believe it should necessarily be his playground. Others should be allowed to come in."

But he feels those who do need to prove worthy of staying.

"I don't have a God-given right to be here," said Wells, whose No. 32 Tide-sponsored Chevrolet has one top-10 since 2003. "I have to earn my right, and we've slipped off the ball. But as the momentum migrates toward multicar teams beyond three [cars] . . . I feel I'm not strong enough to overcome that."
October 13th, 2005  
It looks some real competition might begin in Nextel Cup. now they just have to make it offical and enforce it.