Forward: In order to better understand this article, perhaps you should first check out what essentially is a "part one" NASCAR 1996: Sponsorship, Schedules, Drivers, and Selling Racing's Soul.
In that piece, I argue that the shift in sponsorship from a Southern brand (Winston Cigarettes) to a Northern brand (Nextel-Sprint) along with the influx of Northern drivers and the shift in scheduling from largely Southern to Northern tracks began in 1996 and started the sport's decline that continues today.
This article continues that trend with a look at the influx of Northern crew chiefs and car owners and how the loss of the single-car operation in favor of larger more corporate-run teams continued to change and ruin the sport as it continues to evolve beyond the point of recognition as the sport dies a little more each year.
Crew Chiefs (of those known) as of 1996
Northern Crew Chiefs
New York (2) Robin Pemberton, Steve Hmiel
Oregon (2) Terry Fisher,
Wisconsin (1) Jimmy Fenning
Colorado (1) Joe Garone
Maine (1) Paul Andrews
New Jersey (1) Ray Evernham
Michigan (1) Kevin Hamlin
Southern crew chiefs
North Carolina (10) Tony Furr, Bill Ingle, Michael McSwain, Jimmy MaKar, Charley Pressley, Andy Petree, David Smith, Todd Parrott, Buddy Parrott, Jeff Hammond
South Carolina (1) Donnie Wingo
Kentucky (2) Donnie Richeson, Wood Brothers
Tennessee (2) Gil Martin, Tony Glover
Alabama (2) Jimmy Means, Larry McReynolds
Texas (1) Gary DeHart
foreign (1) Phillipe Lopez
Nine Northern crew chiefs, 18 Southern and one foreign. Tremendous representation from North Carolina which, as the flagship state, is always welcomed and good to see.
Crew Chiefs as of 2010
Northern Crew chiefs
Maine (3) Pete Rondeau, Steve Letarte, Sluggler Labbe,
Connecticut (1) Greg Zipadelli
Vermont (1) Dave Rogers
Massachusetts (2) Kevin Manion, Bill Henderson
New Hampshire (1) Frank Stoddard
New York (1) Peter Sospenzo
Pennyslvania (6) Frank Kerr, Pat Tryson, Jay Guy, Travis Geisler, Greg Irwin, Bob Osbourne,
Illinois (1) Chad Knaus
Wisconsin (1) Fenning
New York (2) Ryan Pemberton, Tommy Baldwin Jr
California (1) Jimmy Elledge,
Nevada (1) Shane Wilson,
Southern crew chiefs
Tennessee (3) Randy Seals, Mike Ford, Gil Martin,
Virginia (2) Bootie Barker, Darian Grubb
North Carolina (6) Steven Lane, Rodney Childers, Marc Reno, Todd Berrier, Todd Parrott, Mike Shiplett,
South Carolina (2) Steve Addington, Donnie Wingo,
Florida (4) Brian Pattie, Alan Gustafson, Kenny Francis, Tony Gibson
Louisiana (1) Lance McGrew,
foreign Phillipe Lopez
21 Northern crew chiefs, 18 Southern crew cheifs, one foreign.
What have we learned? Much like the driver decrease in Southern drivers, which once enjoyed a literal 2:1 advantage of Southern born to Northern, Northern crew chiefs, much like the drivers in the sport themselves, have taken over the sport and are now the majority.
Note how I placed all the New Englanders together, which I consider the worst of the plague because due to their prevalent (but not exclusive) affluence/hoity-toity culture would be less inclined to identify with the racing scene than someone from the Mid or far West.
Should we expect anything different when this demographic is that to which NASCAR is pandering and to whom it would like to see its core audience?
Car owners as of 1996
Northern car owners
Pennysylvania (1) Chuck Rider (Bahari Racing)
Massachuetts (1) Diane Bodine (Brett Bodine Racing),
New York (1) Geoff Bodine (Geoff Bodine Racing)
Indiana (1) Doug Bawel (Jasper Motorsports),
Michigan (2) Helen Marcis (Marcis Auto Racing), Roger Penske,
New Jersey (1) Billy Stavola (Stavola Brothers Racing)
Southern Car Owners
Arkansas (1) Bill Davis (Bill Davis Racing),
Alabama (1) Bobby Allison (Bobby Allison Motorsports),
South Carolina (2) Bud Moore (Bud Moore Engineering), Cale Yarborough (Cale Yarborough Motorsports),
Florida (2) Butch Mock (Butch Mock Motorsports), Andrea Nemechek (NEMCO Motorsports),
Kentucky (3) Darrell Waltrip (Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, Jack Roush, Glen Wood (Wood Brothers Racing),
Virginia (3) Junie Donlavey (Donlavey Racing), Larry McClure (Morgan-McClure Motorsports), Linda Rudd (Rudd Performance Motorsports),
North Carolina (9) Rick/Joe Hendrick, (Hendrick Motorsports), Joe Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing), Larry Hedrick (Larry Hedrick Motorsports), Leo Jackson (Leo Jackson Motorsports), Richard Petty (Petty Enterprises), Richard Childress (Richard Childress Racing), Richard Jackson (Precision Products), Robert Yates (Robert Yates Racing), Travis Carter (Smokin' Joe's Racing),
foreign (2) Michael Kranefuss (MK Racing), Felix Sabates (SABCO Racing),
1996 totals: 7 car owners from the North. 21 (3 times as many) from the South and two foreign.
Car Owners as of 2010
Northern Car Owners
Pennsylvania (1) Chip Ganassi,
Ohio (1) Bob Germain
California (4) Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Margaret Haas, Kevin Buckler
Vermont (1) Bill Jenkins,
New York (2) Robert Kaufmann, Tommy Baldwin Jr,
Indiana (1) Tony Stewart,
Illinois (1) John W. Henry,
Michigan (4) Roger Penske, Phil Parsons, Dusty Whitney, Warren Czarnecki
Wisconsin (1) George N. Gillette Jr,
Southern Car Owners
North Carolina (8) Teresa Earnhardt, Bob Jenkins, Doug Yates, Joe/J.D. Gibbs, Tad Greshickster, Mary/Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Richard Petty,
Kentucky (2) Jack Roush, Michael Waltrip
Florida (2) Andrea Nemechek, James Finch,
foreign (1) Dietrich Matechitz (Austria),
2010 Totals: 16 Northern Car Owners, 12 Southern Car Owners. Once again, as a continuing but unexpected trend, Northern Car Owners have overtaken Southern Car Owners in just 14 short years. And they wonder why the sport is changing? Too much influence.
Conclusions: While the North Carolina base surprisingly held their own only dropping one team, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Arkansas disappeared from the map entirely. Michigan doubled in size.
Doing this research taught me just how hard it is to own a team and how expensive it must be. For example, everyone knows that George Gillett bankrolls Richard Petty Motorsports even though The King is the honorary figurehead centerpiece. Tony Stewart for all his millions in endorsements and popularity, still only owns just his car of his technical two-car team.
This is done for publicity only. Why not put someone in charge who has more of a passion than a Gillette or a John Henry (Roush-Fenway Racing) when the former clearly have bigger endeavors and more pressing ventures than racing? It's just smart business.
Anyway, Gilette owns three of the current (but likely to reduce) RPM cars with Richard Petty owning only the A.J. Allmindinger ride. This shows just how much money it takes and how without this alliance, Petty would have long been out the door even quicker than some believe to be the inevitable due to lack of funding and competitiveness which I hope never happens.
Also, in 1996, look at the number of family owned teams and not surprisingly, single car operations. "Bodine Racing" (for all intents and puposes, Marcis Auto Racing, Stavola Brothers Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Cale Yarborough Motorsports, Bud Moore Engineering, Bobby Allison Motorsports, Butch Mock Motorsports, Junie Donlavey Racing, Darrell Waltrip Racing, Morgan-McClure Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports, Petty Enterprises, Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing (1 team!), Precision Products, , and Richard Jackson Racing all ran one car and had various degrees of success.
What that means is sure, NEMCO Motorsports is still around today, but they are a non-factor. Wasn't the case in 1996 since the field was more level. What does it tell you when NASCAR's biggest names: Bud Moore, Robert Yates, Cale Yarborough, and Petty all formed their own race teams at one time and only Petty remains, albeit, just a a thread?
How many "family teams" run today? NEMCO, Michael Waltrip Racing, Robby Gordon Racing, Tommy Baldwin Jr. and James Finch and we all see how far that gets them. Petty can't do it on his own and is struggling. James Finch has had some success with Brad Keselowski (Talladega win) and Mike Bliss' Nationwide win last year but he lost those drivers).
Baldwin doesn't run all races and Nemechek can't always qualify and when he does, he's 100% "start and park" now. Waltrip? Gibbs? They've gone corporate and turned into monster organizations because they've had to, to survive and compete. This is NASCAR's biggest problem. Lack of parity and the good old days of "showing up to the track and racing with what you brought."
Only Hendrick Motorsports (three teams) and Robert Yates Racing (two teams) ran multiple cars. Obviously Hendrick Motorsports ascended to the top while Yates stunningly went the other way and no longer exists (at least on a relevant scale). Today we know most teams run four and this is what most fans fear: Ten 4-car teams, which waters down the product.
Then you have all the BS "technical-alliance" teams like Red Bull/Hendrick/Stewart-Haas, Joe Gibbs/Michael Waltrip, and Earnhardt-Ganassi/Richard Childress Racing. Its basically the same team winning, just a different name. i.e when Tony Stewart wins, he immediately thanks his " satellite team" Hendrick Motorsports.
Lame, but true.
A lot has changed in the fast growing, progressive sport. Once again, none of it for the better.
Information from Wikipedia and ESPN.com, directly contributed to the content of this article.