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Saturday, October 8, 2005
France says changes will ensure long-term growth

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- NASCAR plans to limit the number of teams a car owner will be able to field in the Nextel Cup Series, chairman Brian France said Saturday.

"We're going to make some adjustments in policy to balance the playing field a little better and really go after new ownership in the industry, really benefit and help the teams like the Wood Brothers, the Pettys, Cal Wells, independent teams that are finding themselves in ever increasing difficulties to compete," France said.

He said the limit would be phased in over the next few seasons.

"It won't happen tomorrow," France said. "But it would phase down from five to four to some other number."

All of the top teams currently in NASCAR are multicar teams, with Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports leading the way with five and four cars, respectively.

The benefits of running more than one car are clear: additional tests under current testing limits, information sharing among the teams, multiple sponsorships that provide great resources and, sometimes, on-track cooperation among teammates.

But France said the success of the big teams is also viewed as an obstacle to people contemplating starting a new Cup team. For example, Jack Roush's team has won the last two Cup titles and all five of his cars are in NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the championship.

"We don't like the fact that the independent teams, or in particular a new owner looking at coming in the door, have a daunting task to compete, and the concept of having to have five teams, three teams … that's why you haven't seen a lot of new ownership like a Ray Evernham come into the sport," France said.

"That means the opportunities aren't there for young drivers. It means opportunities aren't there to create the next Rick Hendrick and have the success. It ultimately means that we don't field as many competitive cars as we'd like to field. We're going to have to address that."

Roush wasn't happy with the news.

"Responding to the meeting and anything that might have happened in it is something I can't do because I'm ignorant of what happened," Roush said. "And the reason I'm ignorant in this case is because I was given neither the consideration nor the courtesy of either being consulted or informed of what they'll do or what they might do or what they're considering doing.

"The thing that I will say to all the fans and all the sponsors and all the drivers and all the many people that are important to us is that we're committed to this business. We've made a huge investment in it. I've raised myself to do what I'm doing today, as have many people who have put their trust in me, and we won't let them down."

But Roush stopped short of giving NASCAR an ultimatum.

"Having said that," he added, "we will cooperate and participate with NASCAR at any level with any part that they'll let us have to have rules and process and mores that are both understandable, defensible and are in the best interest of the sport and the business. And, so, whatever rules they come up with, we're in."

Jeff Gordon, a four-time Cup champion and also listed as the owner of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson's car, said the reason there are so many multicar teams is because there haven't been any limitations.

"Once you build an organization up, the ability to start another team is so much more efficient for you than to start one up from scratch," Gordon said.

"I would hope that if they're thinking in that direction, they're also thinking of franchising those teams as well because there's just such a big investment that goes into it. Once you start a team it would be nice to know there's value in that team beyond just the ability to pull sponsorship and put good race cars out there on the racetrack."