Roush-Yates alliance could circumvent NASCAR's four-car rule

RICHMOND, Va. -- Roush Fenway Racing officials have been looking for a way around NASCAR's four-car cap rule ever since it was introduced at the end of the 2005 season.

Their alliance with Robert Yates Racing appears to be the answer.

Roush Fenway Racing, which already shared an engine program with RYR, will expand its relationship in 2008 to include building and selling cars and parts to its fellow Ford partner as well as licensing and marketing.

That ultimately will allow Roush after the 2009 season -- the deadline NASCAR has set for it to get to four teams -- to send its fifth car and whatever employees that might go with it to RYR.

"That's not part of the deal, but it certainly won't shock anybody here if in two years that's where it goes," Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said before Saturday night's Nextel Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

"When you shrink an organization like NASCAR is doing to us you end up not being able to promote people because they don't have places to go, so they end up leaving us for somebody else. This gives us a chance to really keep all that training money within our Ford Motor company camp."

It also allows Roush to benefit from the sharing of information for basically a seven-car team that could grow to eight.

Smith said he and other Roush employees have gone to great length to make sure this alliance falls within the NASCAR rules.

"We are not even close to any of the prohibitions that NASCAR got," he said. "We're in another universe. This is a real, careful, safe deal. We're not close to getting near their concerns.

"Here's the rules. You can't own it, you can't profit share, you can't take prize money and you can't underwrite their loss to shore them up. Those are the core rules. Then they told us about ancillary rules. You can't lease them cars. You've got to sell them cars. All those rules, we're good with that."

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, initially avoided the question of whether this is circumventing the rules.

"You're starting [something]," he said. "Don't go there on me. I'm telling you, don't go there cause I know what you're starting. Ask a regular question."

Asked again if this was Roush's way of circumventing the rules, Pemberton said, "There would be concern if you had everything in one facility. That's why we've gone to the four-car limit. There's business sense in buying cars and going and employing an engineering staff that has the resources that make your teams run better."

Pemberton applauded RYR for doing what it can to survive after losing its cornerstone driver, Dale Jarrett, and sponsor UPS this season to Toyota.

"Employing the services of a group that's got proper engineering and builds cars is what he needs to do to put him and Doug back running again," he said, referring to RYR owner Doug Yates.

But NASCAR officials said Roush still would have to get NASCAR's approval, which it doesn't, before moving a team to Yates.

Smith doesn't believe there will be any grounds to prevent it.

"They have a fleet of detectives that follow these transactions around the garage," he said of NASCAR. "We've been through that process. We've been examined. I've had my NASCAR Sigmoidoscopy."

Yates, who will take over ownership of RYR with his dad, Robert, retiring after this season, believes the alliance will benefit both organizations.

While RYR will be a two-car operation next season, it ultimately could be a four-car team with Roush Fenway Racing having all the knowledge and information sharing from an eight-car team.

This also guarantees that RYR doesn't leave Ford for another manufacturer had it been sold.

"No team can afford to have their manufacturer withdraw," Smith said. "It's too critical of a piece all the way around. It's in our long-term best interest to really help develop a competitor to compete against us."

David Newton covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.