The time for franchises has come in NASCAR

Dave Ongie • Apr 9, 2007 at 10:54 AM

Without the Pettys, NASCAR as we know it wouldn't exist.

Lee Petty was a founding father of NASCAR and his son Richard became the face of the sport for the better part of four decades.

Richard Petty churned his way around tracks all over the Southeast in his No. 43 Dodge, earning seven championships before calling it a career in 1992.

Now Richard's son Kyle is carrying on the family business under his father's watchful eye, bringing Petty Enterprises into a new era of NASCAR - an era of big money and international expansion.

Even though it's been about 15 years since Richard Petty ran his last race, you'd be hard-pressed to look atop the hauler of the No. 43 Dodge on any given race weekend and not spot The King in his trademark shades and cowboy hat, following the ups and downs of the No. 43 and No. 45 cars.

But if Richard, Kyle and the rest of the Petty family decided tomorrow that it was too hard to compete with titans like Hendrick and Roush Fenway and the time had come to walk away, they would do so virtually empty-handed.

Never mind the fact that The King is the biggest ambassador the sport has, Petty Enterprises would have to sell everything from chassis to facilities to engines for roughly 10 cents on the dollar.

After all the Pettys have done for NASCAR, after all the money they've poured into the sport during thick and thin, that isn't right.

The solution is simple - the time has come for NASCAR to franchise its Nextel Cup teams.

You might be asking what franchising is - well, here's a crash course.

If you want to field a team in Major League Baseball, you can't just sign a group of players, build a stadium and expect the Braves to come in next weekend for a three-game series.

You have to go out and buy a team. The only way to build a team from the ground up is to convince the existing owners they need to expand, and they must agree with you in a vote in order for you to join the MLB family.

That's how it would work on the Cup circuit.

If Mark Cuban decided he wanted to own a NASCAR team, he would have to shell out the money to buy an existing team from one of the existing owners or convince them to allow him to start an expansion team.

If he didn't want to pony up the big money at the start, he would have the option of jumping into the Busch Series and building his program there first before making the big investment that would come with becoming an owner in the Cup series.

I know, I know ... NASCAR purists are howling their protests from here to kingdom come.

There's no racing in Rockingham, weeds are growing in Wilkesboro and NASCAR's open-door policy that states anybody with an approved car, a certified driver and a fist full of money can show up at the track and try to qualify for Sunday's race is NASCAR's last connection to its bootlegging roots.

But the reality is that the sport has changed, and the people who stand to lose in a climate without franchising are the very people who have taken the financial risks over the years to make the sport the monster moneymaker that it has become.

If somebody wants to jump on the bandwagon now that the bandwagon is full of money, they should have to pay their dues to get on board.

And those dues should go to people like Richard Petty, who packed that bandwagon with cash in the first place.

It's time to face facts - a lifetime in racing is worth a lot more than 10 cents on the dollar.

• When the Busch Series hits the airwaves on ESPN2 this Saturday, Dale Jarrett will find himself in the broadcast booth describing the action.

Jarrett will be filling the seat of Rusty Wallace, who has done a bang-up job so far in his rookie season as a NASCAR broadcaster.

ESPN's coverage has been miles ahead of the slow-speed train wreck Fox puts on the air every Sunday afternoon.

The team of Wallace, Andy Petree and Marty Reid has blended well, and Brad Daugherty always chimes in with questions that are right on the money.

Jarrett should be a great fit in ESPN2's coverage as he begins the process of following his father Ned's path from the driver's seat to the broadcast booth.

• The announcement recently came down that the movement to build a racetrack in the Seattle area is all but dead.

In related news, a bill is now moving through the legislature in the state of Washington that would ban booing at state high school sporting events.

Although it doesn't appear that the ban would apply to a NASCAR race held in the state, Rick Hendrick and Roger Penske might want to think twice about entering cars into a race in Washington.

After all, if booing isn't allowed, how would Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon be allowed to compete?

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