News & Media


Spotlight: David vs. Goliath? Or JD Motorsports vs. Gibbs?

September 14, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Teams without Cup funding find going tough, but supremacy battle worthwhile

When it comes to beating the big-money teams in the Nationwide Series, does David's slingshot still have any chance of toppling Goliath? Is there a Villanova to upset rival Georgetown?

Mike Wallace is 12th in the point standings, and the one-car operation he drives for is 13th in Nationwide owners points. He holds out hope that the "little guys" still have what it takes.

"It really sucks but we do what we have to do to be here. I love doing this. I want to do it. And if we could just find some money, I think we could give them a run for theirs."

--JOE NEMECHEK

"I remember 1992, when Alan Kulwicki won the championship, so a small team can conquer," Wallace said. "It's just very difficult today."

Three Nationwide-only drivers -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Reed Sorenson and Justin Allgaier -- have combined for four wins this year, a significant improvement over recent seasons. Some of that can be attributed to the new chassis.

But even with the rule limiting drivers to points in one national series, the lion's share of the wins continue to go to Cup regulars. To Kenny Wallace, seventh in points, there's a good reason for that.

"People catch me off-guard when they talk about Cup drivers [winning all the time]," Wallace said. "And I remind everybody, it's not the Cup drivers. It's the Cup car owners.

"People say, 'Kenny, you've got 10 top-10s. What do you need to do to win?' I say, 'You're forgetting something. I'm racing Roger Penske, Jack Roush, Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick.' "

But Wallace isn't complaining. He understands that's how it's always been -- and probably always will be. Without a cap on spending, the guys with the deeper pockets will have a decided advantage.

"There's nothing wrong with it," Wallace said. "I talked to Roger Penske about making the rules better so it wouldn't be so expensive. And Roger pointed out to me that it's a free enterprise, meaning that the wealthy win. So I think that's the bottom line."

Mike Wallace agreed with his younger brother. He said NASCAR's no different than any other free market economy.

"We run the racing world like corporate America," Mike Wallace said. "There's still the organizations that will have all of the good people, and that's the big difference in these cars, just the people to work on them. And the resources that allow you to hire all of those good people."

With a few exceptions, Cup owners are also able to attract a larger percentage of sponsorship money, the lifeblood of racing. It's the whole "cubic dollars" dilemma of needing to spend more money in order to gain an advantage on the track.

"I've been on the other side of the fence and had the good sponsorship and we were able to win a ton of races," said Joe Nemechek, one spot behind Mike Wallace in the standings. "In this sport, it's pretty hard to take someone that doesn't have a lot of sponsor dollars and beat the guys that do.

"I think for myself and my whole team, we've done a really good job this year at giving them a run for their money. There are some big teams that we've outrun consistently and I'm proud of that."

Having newer equipment rather than hand-me-downs is one way of leveling the playing field, Allgaier said. Owner Steve Turner's teams are fifth, ninth and 11th in the owners championship heading into Chicagoland.

"Last year at Turner Motorsports, they used chassis that were old Evernham cars," Allgaier said. "This year, we're building our own stuff in-house, which I feel like is a great thing. Any time you can build your own stuff in-house, quality control is a good thing. Just the small resources that you don't ever think about are the ones that really bite a team like ours."

Nemechek would love to be in that situation but economics don't allow it.

"This car is five years old, I think, so it's just old parts and pieces," Nemechek said. "I'm not saying you always have to have the latest and greatest stuff but you've got to build new stuff and get better to be able to compete. I feel good with what we have."

So without similar resources, how do smaller teams fight back? Hard work and perseverance can do wonders, according to Allgaier.

"I think you can make up a lot for that in personnel and we have a great group of guys who not only work on our team but on all the teams," Allgaier said. "That really says a lot about our organization and how far we've been able to improve."

The smaller teams have the potential to be as good as the bigger ones, according to Mike Wallace. It's that they don't have as much room for error if something goes wrong.

"There's always going to be a discrepancy and there's nothing you can do to equal that out," Wallace said. "I drive for a really good car owner that makes his living -- the little bit that he makes -- out of racing. So we've got to do good and finish races and all that. We've got a good hard-core group of racers that might beat, on any given day, one of those major teams."

And that's why Nemechek loads up the hauler every weekend. Because maybe this is the week that Goliath will take one in the noggin.

"We have very little help on this car and we're basically running off [the purse money]," Nemechek said. "I've got a lot of guys who work really hard to get us to the race track every week.

"It really sucks but we do what we have to do to be here. I love doing this. I want to do it. And if we could just find some money, I think we could give them a run for theirs."