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One year ago, this weekend, Tony Stewart announced he as leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to become a co-owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, in that time Stewart has created a successful blue print on how a satellite Cup organization should be run. This seems to be a lesson Yates Racing Co-owners Doug Yates and Max Jones have failed to learn.
After cutting David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil from their driver lineup due to lack of sponsorship, this team went out and signed Bobby Labonte, and Paul Menard and new sponsors Ask.com and Menards. To say the least these are moves that had not exactly worked.
At this point of the season in 2008 Menard sat 26th in the points driving for DEI. It as thought that Menard would flourish in better equipment supplied by the Roush-Yates engine shop, and cars supplied by Roush Fenway Racing.
The team even went as far as to move Larry Carter from the #26 team over to Menard’s #98 team after hiring Donnie Wingo to reunite him with Jamie McMurray.
While having Menard, and his sponsor dollars from his Dad’s home improvement stores, has pumped money into Yates the results have been far less than anyone imagined. Menard sits 31st in the points, a full five sports worse than he was at this point in 2008.
Yates formed an alliance with Hall of Fame racing to bring over the #96 team with driver Bobby Labonte, who then went out and secured Ask.com to a lucrative sponsorship agreement. This is yet another move that hasn’t seemed to work.
At this point in 2008 Labonte was 19th in points driving for Richard Petty. Right now he stands 27th a full 8 places worse. Yates had hired Todd Parrott and Ben Leslie to try and right the #96 ship but nothing seems to be working. Labonte had to rely on his top 35 in owners points position to make the field at Chicago.
We should note that the two Yates cars, #28 Travis Kvapil and #38 David Gilliland, sat 20th and 22nd in the points at this point in 2008 respectively. This seems to indicate that Yates made the wrong moves heading into 2009.
Now Foxsports.com is reporting rumors that Yates will again blow out their driver lineup heading into 2010. Since Ask.com is reportedly shopping their sponsorship package to other teams Yates will have to make a strong push to keep them as a sponsor, while cutting ties with Menard and his locked in financing.
It is now clear, since Menard is in his third full season in the Sprint Cup series, that even with guaranteed sponsorship it is not worth having Menard drive for a once top level Cup organization.
Come 2010 RFR will have to move one of its five teams over to the Yates organization. Most likely this will be either Jamie McMurray or David Ragan. Since Roush’s longtime sponsor of the #17 Matt Kenseth, Dewalt, is looking for a discount in their deal, Roush and Yates must think long and hard about how to develop their roster for 2010.
The most likely scenario would be for Roush to move the Crown Royal sponsorship to the #17 car pairing it with Dealt and moving driver Jamie McMurray to the Yates stable in an attempt to get Ask.com to resign with McMurray as their spokesman.
That would leave Yates one or two seats, depending on sponsors, left to fill. They should take another strong look at Kvapil, or use RFR marketing arm to make a big push for Brad Keslowski. Either one of these drivers would be a vast improvement of the aging Labonte.
What is clear is Roush and Yates have much work to do to get their satellite team running more effectively. That change must begin to happen before the off season, because this is clearly a team headed in the wrong direction.