Loss Of One Car Teams, Southern Owners/Crew Chiefs Show NASCAR's Decline

Joe M.Correspondent IIAugust 24, 2010

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 20:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in the winners circle with team owner Rick Hendrick after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway on June 20, 2010 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.