When NASCAR first proposed setting a cap on the number of teams a car owner could have, Jack Roush couldn't help but feel as if he was being picked on.
"It feels like 'Get Shorty' to me," quipped Roush, who might reach 5 feet 7 when wearing his trademark fedora hat.
NASCAR finally announced what its cap would be on Thursday, setting the limit at four teams for next season. The cap infuriated Roush, who is the only owner in NASCAR with five teams.
"Disappointed would be my word, but I don't think that is strong enough for what Jack is feeling," said Roush Racing President Geoff Smith. "It is hard for Jack not to believe that there is a laser bull's-eye on his forehead."
Roush has always believed the cap was directed at him and his booming empire. His drivers have won the past two championships, and all five of his cars are in the 10-man Chase for the Nextel Cup.
NASCAR maintains that the limit is not aimed at reeling in Roush, but is instead intended to help the sport flourish and prevent the multicar teams from totally dominating the sport.
That's what is happening now, as all the top teams in NASCAR are currently multicar operations with budgets that could be soon closing in on $100 million a year. It's nearly impossible for single-car teams to compete against the big-money operations, which pool resources to gain additional tests, information sharing, multiple sponsorships, and, sometimes, on-track cooperation among teammates.
In arguing for the cap, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said the big teams are an obstacle to owners contemplating coming into the sport.
"We don't like the fact that the independent teams, or in particular a new owner looking at coming in the door, have a daunting task to compete, and the concept of having to have five teams, three teams," France said. "That means the opportunities aren't there for young drivers. It means opportunities aren't there to create the next Rick Hendrick and have the success.
"It ultimately means that we don't field as many competitive cars as we'd like to field."
The numbers back France up.
* Hendrick is the second-largest operation with four cars, which includes Jimmie Johnson, who is second in the points with two races remaining, and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, the winningest driver outside the Chase with four victories.
* Combined, Roush and Hendrick drivers have won 23 of 33 races this season.
* All 10 drivers in the Chase are from multicar teams.
* At 21 in the standings, Ricky Rudd is the highest-ranked driver from a single-car team.
Beginning next season, four cars will be the maximum an owner can have. But NASCAR did say it would work to set a timeline for compliance for teams with more than four entries.
Smith said Roush officials were told in a recent private meeting with NASCAR that a "grandfather clause" would be included to allow them to keep their five teams at least through the 2009 season. All of their current contracts with sponsors and drivers at least run through then, but what happens when those deals expire remains somewhat murky.
"Our impression is if every one of those sponsors wants to continue past '09, they can," Smith said. "If some of the sponsors don't want to continue on but every driver wants to continue past '09, that would be okay, too. But its very unlikely that all of that will happen.
"But the bottom line is we will have to go to four. It won't be next year, it won't be for a few years, but we will have to get there."
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter did not immediately return a call for comment to address Smith's interpretation of the grandfather clause.
In another rule change announced for next season, NASCAR said it was limiting the number of tests by a team.
NASCAR will set a schedule for on-track tests, and those will be the only tests at tracks which host Nextel Cup races.
Tests at non-Nextel Cup tracks will continue to be permitted.