Yates, Newman/Haas/Lanigan announce they intend to form partnership
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 before, agreed.
"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 Brickyard.
But Junior isn't sold on the idea that the sport's future is in adding cars.
"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."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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