INDIANAPOLIS -- Another day, another revamped NASCAR team.
Just two days after Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Ginn Racing joined
forces, Robert Yates Racing and open-wheel powerhouse
Newman/Haas/Lanigan announced they intend to form a partnership.
Yates, whose team has struggled for several years after being
one of NASCAR's winningest teams, has actively sought a partner or
buyer for more than a year.
"This is a wonderful partnership," said Yates, who fields
Fords for second-year driver David Gilliland and longtime NASCAR
star Ricky Rudd. "This gives us a clear vision how to get to the
top. It is our goal to continue to build so this team will be
better positioned to contend for the championship."
The deal, which would rename the team Yates/Newman/Haas/Lanigan
Racing, is expected to give the Yates team a big boost,
particularly in engineering and marketing.
Since Robert Yates Racing was formed in 1988, the team has 57
victories, 48 poles and won the 1999 Cup championship with Dale Jarrett. Its drivers also have included Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan
and Kenny Irwin.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, co-owned by Paul Newman, racing
entrepreneur Carl Haas and businessman Michael Lanigan, is the most
successful team competing in the Champ Car World Series.
The team, based in Lincolnshire, Ill., is in its 25th season of
competition and has earned seven championships, 101 wins and 103
pole positions. Its current drivers are Sebastien Bourdais, the
three-time defending series champion, and rookie Graham Rahal.
Yates previously merged his team's engine program with that of
Roush Racing and put his son, Doug, in charge. The younger Yates
said the new agreement will complement both teams.
Haas, who has been a team owner in NASCAR's Cup series twice
"We have been looking to add other forms of racing to our Champ
Car program," he said. "I think that the NASCAR and Champ Car
programs can learn something from each other."
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said he believes the mergers and
partnerships -- and the bigger teams that come with them -- are good
for the sport.
"Everybody likes being independent," Hunter said. "Certainly
a guy like Robert Yates. But, by the same token, but when it comes
down to the money, the resources, and the people, engine programs,
engineers and everything else, you have to step back and look at
the big picture, and I think it's a great way for the sport to go
to the next level.
"Instead of having one or two four-car teams who are dominant,
you could have six or eight or 10 four-car teams and spread the
balance across the board. It's just a fact of life that the
economics, the sheer financial aspects of the sport, change from
year to year, from decade to decade."
The DEI-Ginn merger instantly turned DEI from a two-car team
into a four-car team. Although this latest partnership won't add
Nextel Cup cars right away, it does conform with the idea of NASCAR
teams seeking more resources -- financial and technical -- in this
time of rapidly rising costs and escalating competition.
Jack Roush took on Boston Red Sox owner John Henry as a partner
earlier this year; and Ray Evernham is expected to partner with
Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillette. It's nothing new. In
2003, team owner Richard Childress sold part of his team to
private-equity firm Chartwell Investments of New York.
Roush currently fields five cars, while Evernham and Childress
both have three Cup cars.
DEI has been the most active team, also forging an engine
partnership with RCR.
"I think [the merger] was a smart business decision on their
part, just to solidify the future of that company," Earnhardt said
Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he and the rest of the
Nextel Cup drivers will race in Sunday's Allstate 400 at the
But Junior isn't sold on the idea that the sport's future is in
"I don't feel that you need four teams," he said. "If you've
got two or three teams that's good, you can do well with that. But
four teams is really, really tough. I think that's very hard to do,
and I think it's only for a select few owners in the sport."