Are The Little Teams Here for the Long Run?
It took Joe Gibbs Racing eight Cup seasons before Bobby Labonte lifted their first title in 2000. Rick Hendrick had to wait over a decade for the first of Jeff Gordon's cups, while Jack Roush had to endure 15 Cup-less years before Matt Kenseth's 2003 title.
Basically, NASCAR success does not come overnight, or in fact, over-year.
Thanks to the foundering economy, the massive layoffs within NASCAR teams and the availability of equipment due to mergers and sale, this season has seen the arrival of a collection of new "micro-teams" on the Sprint Cup entry lists.
I speak, of course, of the Tommy Baldwin Racings, the Prism Motorsports, the NEMCOs and the Mayfields.
They all have different levels of experience, expertise, and most of all speed. But the jury is still out on how (or whether) these teams will perform in races or indeed whether they will last an entire season.
I'm yet to be convinced, and hell will have no fury like me if a team so much as dares to start and park.
However, the most important question is whether the brains behind the team expect to still be with the team, not in nine months, but in nine years.
These teams cannot be expected to immediately contest for poles, wins, top-fives or even top-20s.
By the very nature of the way they have started they are comprised of the mechanics, crew chiefs, cars and drivers that were surplus to requirements elsewhere, so (and I mean no disrespect to these people) they are not going to have the level of skill available to a Roush, Hendrick, Childress or Gibbs.
They may not have the best drivers. I'm sure if we were all Tommy Baldwin for a day we'd question why Scott Riggs has taken the seat at his team, and start waving our checkbooks at better wheelmen. But these teams don't have the checkbooks to wave at the moment.
They may not have the clout at the moment, but imagine the day....
The economy is rosy again (I know, it's a way off) and the money and sponsors that NASCAR has hemorrhaged in recent months are returning. One of these sponsors chooses to side with Tommy Baldwin Racing, allowing the team to expand to two cars, fielding a car for the latest wunderkind from the lower ranks.
In those three lines, the foundations of a possible powerhouse team have been laid out. They, and we, may just have to patient, remember the 15 years.
If these teams are genuinely taking advantage of a sporting low ebb to start their team and planning to build them up over years, then I am very happy for these teams to spend a few seasons riding round at the back (no S&P).
However, if these teams are just the play things of otherwise out of work drivers and crewmen, starting a team up, only to drop them once again once another job comes along, then the place in my heart of their teams is very small and cold.
This article is partly inspired and in response to Kelly Crandall's "Can't Get Hired?....."
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