NASCAR WCUP: The Times They Are a'Changin'
23 December 1998Number one in The New Deal series of six
HARRISBURG, N.C., - The idea of having more than one NASCAR Winston Cup Series race team is not a new idea, nor was it the readily accepted idea that it is today.
Petty Enterprises fielded multiple entries in the 1960s and early 1970s for a host of different drivers. When Rick Hendrick began fielding two teams in 1986, he joined Junior Johnson, Bill and Mickey Stavola, and Richard and Leo Jackson as multi-car Winston Cup owners. Still, many NASCAR owners were cool to the idea of having more than one team. Two competitive steeds in one stable, it was believed, was one too many.
Oh, how times have changed.
In 1999, Kenny Wallace, along with sponsor Square D, have united with Andy Petree Racing (APR), thereby establishing a multi-car operation by teaming with Ken Schrader. They now join eight other Winston Cup car owners collectively owning a total of 22 race teams who believe that more is indeed better.
"Everyday we see another reason for having two teams," said Petree, owner of the No. 55 and No. 33 Chevrolets that Wallace and Schrader will drive, respectively, in 1999. "We've established another engine program with a completely different set of people. Now we've made one big team out of two. There's a lot of cross-pollination going on and it's elevating both teams. They start swapping information and all of the sudden they're both better. It happens every day."
With the addition of Wallace to his team, Petree joins the likes of Yates, Roush and Hendrick as bona-fide multi-car owners. Perhaps no one could be happier about this than Wallace himself.
"Now when I have a question, I can go to our engineer Terry Satchell," said Wallace. "I'm used to driving a race car and always having to look at the price of things while asking, 'Can we do that? Can we go test?' It's going to take some getting used to now that I have all these tools to work with." The single-car outfit of FILMAR Racing is where Wallace spent the past five years of his racing career, competing in the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division for two years before moving up to Winston Cup full-time in 1996. "I had a good car everywhere I went," acknowledges Wallace, but with the influx of multi-car teams, a good car wasn't always good enough.
"The number one element is people," said Wallace. "What's going to make us a good multi-car team is the people that Andy Petree has placed around me. Andy's been in racing his whole life. Terry Satchell worked at Penske Racing for years with both stock cars and Indy Cars. My crew chief Jimmy Elledge worked with Andy while the two of them were at RCR (Richard Childress Racing). They understand the development process of a two-car team. It's the people that make race cars fast."
Obviously, a key element in regards to people is the relationship between teammates. In this case, it's Wallace and Schrader.
"I think only Kenny and I understand how odd it sounds for us to be called teammates," said the St. Louis native, "because we're really best friends more than we are teammates. We've been friends since the early '70s when he and my brother Rusty were rivals on the tracks around Missouri. We have a loyalty that goes back much further than just sharing information at the track."
"The biggest element is that Kenny and Kenny are such good supporters of each other," concurred Elledge. "That's a big deal - they're support for each other and this race team."
In addition to Elledge's tenure at RCR where he and Petree won back-to-back Winston Cup championships in 1993 and 1994 while tallying 15 wins together with driver Dale Earnhardt, the 28-year-old Californian has also logged time at the five-car stable of Roush Racing. On race day, Elledge served as Mark Martin's front tire changer, and during the week acted as shop foreman en route to Martin's runner-up finish in the 1998 point standings. The multi- team experience Elledge brings from the Roush camp is invaluable at APR.
"We have a fab shop that builds all of our chassis' and hangs all of our bodies for both teams," said Elledge. "We've got some key people in Terry Satchell, Sammy Johns (crew chief for Schrader) and Gary Rogers who runs our fab department. The four of us will sit down and decide the direction we should go in, and we do it as a team. I spent a lot of time around the (No.) 99 and (No.) 6 teams at Roush, and they ran well for those same reasons."
Another benefit of Andy Petree Racing becoming a multi-car team comes with their affiliation in RAD - a consortium of three Winston Cup teams who have hired highly regarded aerodynamicist Louis Duncan. The "R" is for Richard Childress Racing, the "A" is for Andy Petree Racing and the "D" is for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI). Three teams consisting of six drivers are working together to make their Chevrolets sleeker in the wind tunnel, and consequently, faster on the race track.
"Louis is the leader in the aerodynamics business as far as I'm concerned," said Petree. "We've got him, but it's an expensive program. No single team could hire Louis and do all the necessary testing on their own and justify it. But splitting it up with three different car owners, each with two teams, then it makes sense. Now we can do it financially. We can go to the wind tunnel and get an advantage over our competitors."
"This is huge," said Wallace. "We've built a car that has a completely maneuverable body that we can take to the wind tunnel instantly throughout the whole year - not just once a month, but anytime we need to go. We expect to develop quicker than the teams who aren't a part of this."
"Even though we're a multi-car team, we still felt like we couldn't learn enough with just two cars," added Elledge. "But now with Steve Park and soon Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. at DEI, and Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner at RCR, we've got six teams that can build six different aerodynamic car configurations a whole lot quicker than the (No.) 33 and the (No.) 55 teams could on their own - saving us money while doing it. It's probably the biggest active aero program in Winston Cup right now. We've got the biggest pool of knowledge by far."
Square D Company, based in Palatine, Ill., is an industry-leading manufacturer of electrical distribution, industrial control and automation products, systems and service.