Thursday, June 30, 2005

Roush-Hendrick Dominance

I'm getting a little tired of all the whining about the current Roush-Hendrick dominance of NASCAR. Some fans seem to be worried that NASCAR will turn into an F-1 type situation, where Ferrari has dominated for the past few years. Of course, that overlooks the fact that it took a while for Ferrari to build its teams up to the point where they were winning consistently AND it also overlooks the fact that Ferrari isn't winning this year.

In racing, dominance comes and goes.

Here are some fun facts that all the folks complaining about Roush and Hendrick's success should think about:

-In 1975, one driver--Richard Petty--won over 1/3 of the races.

-In 1976, two drivers--David Pearson and Cale Yarborough--won just about 2/3 of the races.

-In 1978, three drivers--Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, and Bobby Allison--won over 2/3 of the races.

-From 1976 to 1978 only one driver--Cale Yarborough--won the Cup Championship.

-In 1981, two drivers--Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison--won over 1/2 of the races.

-In 1982, two drivers--Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison--won 2/3 of the races.

-In 1985, two drivers--Bill Elliott and Darrell Waltrip--won 1/2 of the races.

-In 1987, two drivers--Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott--won over 1/2 of the races.

-In 1993, three drivers--Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, and Mark Martin--combined to win over 2/3 of the races. And one of those drivers--Rusty Wallace--won 1/3 of them all by himself.

-In 1996, two drivers--Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace--combined to win just under 1/2 of the races. Hendrick drivers--Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte--won over 1/3 of the races.

-In 1997, two drivers--Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett--combined to win over 1/2 of the races.

-In 1998, two drivers--Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin--combined to win almost 2/3 of the races. The Roush and Hendrick teams combined to win over 2/3 of the races.

-In 1999, three teams--Hendrick, Roush, and Gibbs--combined to win over 2/3 of the races.

What to make of all this?

Well, there have been dominant drivers and teams in the past, but those periods of dominance--Waltrip and Allison from 1978 to 1982, for example--are surrounded by periods of greater competition--the 1988 to 1992 seasons, for example. Chances are other teams will rise to challenge and in a few years people will be complaining about Roush-Childress dominance or Hendrick-Gibbs dominance. These things happen in cycles.

I also think the griping about Roush-Hendrick is really just covering some people's disappointment about the poor performance of the drivers that they are fans of. I mean, it's easy to look back at the early 1980s and talk nostalgiacally about the amazing rivalry between Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison, but it seems to be a little harder for some people to get enthusiastic about the exciting rivalry that's shaping up between Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson.

If anything, the multi-car teams of Roush and Hendrick make it less likely that a single driver will become as dominant as Darrell Waltrip was in the 1980s or Jeff Gordon was in 1990s. Roush is likely to have three championships in three years with three different drivers. On a driver vs. driver basis, things are just about as competitive as they've ever been.

My question for the teams gunning for Hendrick and Roush:

A while back, the media made a big deal out of how DEI's restrictor-plate dominance was partly due to the special arrangement between DEI, Childress, and Andy Petree Racing. If there was any truth to this, why don't some of the struggling, smaller teams enter into similar information-sharing arrangements? Wouldn't it make sense for Evernham's Dodges to get together with Ganassi's Dodges and figure out a way to make the Charger work a little better? These wouldn't have to be permanent situations, but it could help some teams get back on track.


Anonymous said...

I would agree. I get so tired of the Hendricks/Roush sky is falling rant. I think of alot of it is due to the "post Jeff Gordon/Dale Jr. era" fans. They have zero sense of history and have nearly no interest to learn it.

As a result all they know is "thier" driver sucks at the moment and it's much easier to point the finger at someone else vice their "favorite."

Thanks for the list of past dominance. I have used the King Petty example on someone and shockingly enough they asked Petty who?" and this fan was 30 plus years old not some 10 year old.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Marc and Kara, but without the dominance issue.. what else does the press have to talk about.. Dale Jr.?.. they've beaten that to death.. next year it could be the DEI/Evernham issue.. who knows.. it's racing.
Excellent work here, you're right on the issues, and I'm here everyday to read.