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Do Powerhouse Teams Have Too Much Power Over Small Teams?

December 22nd, 2012 at 5:16 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

It's what NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing has become. There are powerhouse teams and there are teams that rely on the powerhouse teams. There is no in-between.

It's a recent trend we have seen in NASCAR. Smaller teams have become dependent on the bigger teams because teams use engines and chassis built by the bigger teams. There is no doubt about it. When Speedweeks 2013 hit there will be five major engine suppliers in NASCAR. That is down from 15 engine suppliers the Sprint Cup Series had in Speedweeks 2003.

Many big teams build chassis for smaller teams as well. Hendrick Motorsports provides chassis for Stewart-Hass Racing. Richard Childress Racing provides chassis for Furniture Row Racing. Roush-Fenway Racing provide chassis for Richard Petty Motorsports and Wood Brothers Racing.

As the sport gets more and more condense as far as the engines and chassis go, another trend is starting to show up, making many people believe that the powerhouse teams may have too much power.

To me, it all started in the off-season between the 2010-2011 season. That's when Wood Brothers Racing announced that they were going to be using Roush-Fenway chassis and would be sharing technical information with the organization, helping the Wood Brothers become more competitive with their organization.

'Trevor Bayne/3-11-12' photo (c) 2012, Terri  Hickox - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
For five seasons Bill Elliott was the driver of the Wood Brothers #21 Ford and the team had limited success with the resources the team had. Elliot had done a nice job for the organization and the Wood Brothers and Elliott had a nice relationship.

However, as soon as the deal with Roush-Fenway was announced many people believed Elliott was not going to return to the organization for the 2011 season. They were right. Elliott was replaced by Trevor Bayne, a young hot shot driver from Tennessee that had recently signed a developmental contract with Roush-Fenway Racing. Bayne didn't have a full-time deal in the Nationwide Series and it was unlikely Roush could have kept Bayne in his control throughout the 2011 season without a full-time sponsor in the Nationwide Series. There were rumors that Jack Roush may have forced the hand of the Wood Brothers since they controlled the engine supply and now the chassis of the #21 Ford. It worked out perfectly for both Roush and Bayne.

It turned out to be a great move for the Wood Brothers also. Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500, the organizations' first win since the 2001 season and their first Daytona 500 victory since 1976. Bayne has been the organization's driver for the last two seasons and will still drive for them in 2013. Bayne will also run a full-time schedule for Roush's #6 NASCAR Nationwide Series program in 2013.

'IMG_4526' photo (c) 2012, Parker Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
A similar situation happened recently at Furniture Row Racing. Kurt Busch, who was heavily courted by Richard Childress Racing for a fourth car during the 2012 season, was hired to replace long-time driver Regan Smith. Busch signed a one year contract at Furniture Row Racing and he gives the team its best chance to make the Chase in the organization's history.

However, many people believe that Busch is a shoe in to drive for Richard Childress Racing in the 2014 season and Furniture Row Racing helped out RCR by hiring Busch. If Busch didn't sign with Furniture Row it could have made signing Busch a little more difficult and he may have even signed a two year contract with other organizations.

In both situations it appears the smaller teams may have gotten a good deal. While Bayne has struggled somewhat since his Daytona 500 victory, his victory in that race gives him a pass for several seasons. Busch is a championship caliber race car driver and that really benefits Furniture Row Racing.

The question is though is it right? Will this become a trend? Will all powerhouse teams demand a smaller team to hire a driver to benefit their future. Is it fair for small teams who are trying to compete and are not affiliated with a team to lose out on a good driver just because the bigger team wants it that way?

It's an interesting question and there is not much NASCAR can do about it.

Tags: Bill Elliott, Furniture Row Racing, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Richard Childress Racing, roush fenway racing, Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing

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