New four-car cap infuriates Roush Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Big-money teams will be allowed to field
only four cars under a cap limit set by NASCAR on Thursday, a move
that infuriated the five-car Roush Racing organization.

The limit goes into effect next season, but NASCAR said it would
work to set a timeline for compliance for teams with more than four
entries. Jack Roush is the only owner with five teams, all of which
are in the 10-man Chase for the championship that crowns the Nextel
Cup champion.

"It is hard for Jack not to believe that there is a laser
bulls-eye on his forehead," Roush Racing president Geoff Smith

The move had been expected since last month, when NASCAR
chairman Brian France said he was looking to limit the amount of
cars one owner can have. The announcement caught Roush by surprise,
and his organization has complained it was being singled out.

Until Thursday's announcement, no one was certain what the cap
would be.

Smith said Roush officials were told in a recent private meeting
with NASCAR that a "grandfather clause" would be included to
allow them to keep their five teams at least through the 2009
season. All of their current contracts with sponsors and drivers at
least run through then, but what happens when those deals expire
remains somewhat murky.

"Our impression is if every one of those sponsors wants to
continue past '09, they can," Smith said. "If some of the
sponsors don't want to continue on but every driver wants to
continue past '09, that would be OK, too. But its very unlikely
that all of that will happen.

"But the bottom line is we will have to go to four. It won't be
next year, it won't be for a few years, but we will have to get

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter did not immediately return a call
for comment to address Smith's interpretation of the grandfather

The top teams in NASCAR are currently multi-car operations with
budgets that could be soon closing in on $100 million a year. It's
nearly impossible for single-car teams to compete against the
big-money groups, which pool resources to gain additional tests,
information sharing, multiple sponsorships, and, sometimes,
on-track cooperation among teammates.

But in arguing for the cap, France said the big teams are an
obstacle to owners contemplating coming into the sport.

"We don't like the fact that the independent teams, or in
particular a new owner looking at coming in the door, have a
daunting task to compete, and the concept of having to have five
teams, three teams," France said. "That means the opportunities
aren't there for young drivers. It means opportunities aren't there
to create the next Rick Hendrick and have the success.

"It ultimately means that we don't field as many competitive
cars as we'd like to field."

The numbers back France up.

• Roush has won the past two championships with Matt Kenseth and
Kurt Busch and he got all five of his drivers into the Chase.

• Hendrick has a four-man team that includes Jimmie Johnson, who
is second in the points with two races remaining, and four-time
series champion Jeff Gordon, the winningest driver outside the
Chase with four victories.

• Combined, Roush and Hendrick drivers have won 23 of 33 races
this season.

• All 10 drivers in the Chase are from multi-car teams.

• At 21st in the standings, Ricky Rudd is the highest ranked
driver from a single-car team.

Not all multi-car team owners disliked the cap.

"I think it will be good for the sport," Richard Childress,
who fields three teams, said in the NASCAR release. "Personally, I
could never have gotten into the sport -- the way it is today -- like
I did when I got in as a driver-car owner many years ago."

And single-car owners have long been in favor of a cap.

"As it relates to me personally, I'm in favor of it. As it
relates to making this a better sport, I'm in favor of it," said
Cal Wells, owner of PPI Motorsports, which fields a car for Bobby
Hamilton Jr. "I think it's going to be very good for the garage
area, very good for the sponsors, very good for NASCAR.

"What if Jack had all 43 cars? I know that's probably an
extreme, but where does it stop? Five cars? Seven? Ten? Twelve?"

In other rule changes announced for next season, NASCAR said it
was limiting the number of tests a team can participate in and a
tire-leasing program.

NASCAR will set a schedule for on-track tests, and those will be
the only tests at tracks which host Nextel Cup races. There will be
six test locations: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Daytona International
Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway,
Homestead-Miami Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tests at non-Nextel Cup tracks will continue to be permitted.

NASCAR did not reveal any details about its tire-leasing