When Red Bull Racing entered NASCAR in 2007 with the vast resources of Toyota, it appeared to be profitable match, well, eventually. Clearly, Red Bull was not going to be an instantaneous winner in Sprint Cup, and they had to know that. With up and comer Brian Vickers leading the way, the team had potential. Opting to employ A.J. Allmendinger, a former open-wheel driver with exceedingly limited stock car seat time, was questionable at best. Pursuing a veteran would have behooved this organization during its infancy stages.
Vickers struggled and Allmendinger was downright painful to watch throughout the 2007 season. In 2008, Vickers began to make palpable progress. He was leading laps and finishing in the top 10. After benching Allmendinger in the spring of 2008 for veteran Mike Skinner, the young driver began to develop into a solid driver. In fact, several teams began to show interest in Allmendinger. However, the team had already given up on the young driver. Scott Speed appeared to be developing quite well in the ARCA series as a Red Bull developmental driver.
Allmendinger was shown the door following a more than respectable ninth place finish at Kansas in October of 2008. Speed took over for Allmendinger. Well, former open-wheeler Speed encountered similar struggles as Allmendinger in 2007 and 2008. As Speed “surprisingly” struggled with the open-wheel to stock car conversion, Red Bull officials grew increasingly impatient. After picking up an option for Speed in 2010, they dumped him following the season, leaving him with no chance at a decent ride for 2011. Of course, Speed responded with a lawsuit against the organization.
Red Bull’s star driver Vickers broke through in 2009, winning a race at Michigan in August and qualifying for the Chase for the Championship. The sky was the limit for the Vickers and Red Bull Racing. The young yet experienced driver was living the Red Bull lifestyle to its fullest. However, in the spring of 2010, Vickers was sidelined due to a blood clot. This halted the momentum that he and his team built.
Red Bull decided to bring Kasey Kahne on board only for a year, as he prepared to move on to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Kahne and Vickers have produced hit or miss results in 2011, as they hoped to lure a hot shot free agent such as Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, or Juan Pablo Montoya.
Despite the fact that they seemed to have productive negotiations with Bowyer, the team has apparently decided to abandon their NASCAR program after only five seasons. This is just the latest chapter in a dysfunctional venture into NASCAR.
Bowyer, who is a driver I sincerely respect, should count his blessings, as this likely closes the door on a potentially career-damaging move. Stick with Richard Childress if at all possible.
Red Bull Racing was not in NASCAR for the love of stock car racing. They hoped to capitalize on the country’s greatest auto racing spectacle when the sport was flourishing. After a slew of self-inflicted mistakes due to shoddy decisions, they realized that the future is not as bright as they had hoped. They are not going to have the same presence in NASCAR as they have enjoyed in Formula One.
Therefore, they are willing to bolt at the expense of hundreds of employees who must now search for future employment.
We can only speculate as to why Red Bull is abruptly leaving the NASCAR scene, as it appears they are not as committed to the sport as they wanted us to believe five years ago. If they were, they would not be running away after less than a half a decade of mediocrity. Did Roger Penske give up? Did Chip Ganassi give up? Did Richard Petty give up? Even owners a prosperous as Richard Childress have endured tribulations. Did he give up? No, these guys executed changes and modifications to enhance their programs. They put in the effort. Heck, Ganassi merged with another fledgling organization in DEI just to stay afloat. Petty had to search for outside investors on several occasions just to keep his name in the sport.
It is clear now that Red Bull simply does not belong in NASCAR.
Jay Frye, the current GM for Red Bull, deserves better, and hopefully he lands a profitable gig in NASCAR, perhaps with former friend and colleague Mark Martin. Frye did not have as much say-so as he should have at Red Bull Racing.