Yates, Evernham, Petty seeking investment suitors

Updated: March 31, 2007, 12:15 PM ET
By Marty Smith | ESPN.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Add Robert Yates Racing to the ever-expanding list of Nextel Cup Series owners actively courting investment partners.

RYR president Doug Yates said Saturday that he and his father have been pursing investors for six months. They've gotten some inquiries but nothing solid, Yates said.

Among those investors with which Yates has spoken are the Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise and the Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

"We talked to them last year," Yates said. "Nice group of guys. Nice family. But they felt like, at the time, they were focused on their business. They have a lot of businesses, so that's a name that's come around.

"But there are a lot of people out there interested. We know how popular the sport is and people from the outside can look and see, 'Hey, this has some value.'"

Yates said the most viable method for Nextel Cup teams to hold value is franchising, and feels it's time NASCAR implemented a franchise system.

"At some point, I think NASCAR has got to start looking at franchises, and making these teams worth something," Yates said. "Right now it's a shame -- [a team] goes from something to nothing really quick. It's not really fair to the people who have helped grow the sport."

Yates echoed Kyle Petty's Friday comments that franchising would enable teams to make better decisions, and ultimately make for better racing.

"It means there's some future in it," Yates said. "Right now you have guys up front that are solid, and the guys in the back are scratching and clawing just to be here.

"If everybody was more solid it would be a better show. When you have your last dollar do you invest it or not invest it? Guys halfway back are on that fence. From that standpoint it'd be better quality cars throughout the field."

The top-35 rule, Yates said, is a decent start. But it's time for the next step.

"We have a lot of investment in this," he said. "It's a shame that the teams don't mean anything in it. The sport would be more valuable if you had solid teams that are going to be there year in, year out.

"Look at the NFL, the NBA. That's where we're trying to get, and I think NASCAR's got to think about it. It's a shame to send good sponsors home, but it's also a shame to not be able to guarantee a sponsor to get into the race, either.

"The top-35 thing is good, but it needs to go a step beyond."

Richard Childress was the first owner to sell a stake of his team to an investment group, and the performance of his team has improved tremendously since. Next up was Jack Roush, who made a high-profile sale of 50 percent his team to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry's Fenway Sports Group.

Ray Evernham is searching for an investment partner and Petty said Friday at Martinsville Speedway that Petty Enterprises is, too.

"If there's an opportunity there, then we would be idiots not to explore it," Petty said. "We are exploring different avenues with different people."

Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.