I got an email from a reader on Monday pointing out something I hadn’t put much thought into. He wrote asking us to talk about the Toyota engine program and how in five years the teams using Toyota built motors, Michael Waltrip Racing and Red Bull Racing, only had one win not decided by weather or fuel mileage (David Reutimann’s at Chicago last year; Joe Gibbs Racing builds its own engines – they’ve scored 33 wins since switching manufacturers in 2008).
Though I’m not going to talk about that with this post, with Red Bull’s recent decision to exit NASCAR in the news I couldn’t help but think about how connected the two are. Just Marketing CEO and founder Zak Brown told USA Today:
“They never really had the level of success (in NASCAR) that I’m sure they were hoping for. And on the flip side, you have enormous success around Formula One. I’d probably say it’s a combination of both, and I’m not sure there was ever the same level of excitement and passion (for NASCAR). (Red Bull owner) Dietrich (Mateschitz) is a winner, and he’s not going to go on forever if he doesn’t get the results… If Red Bull had won a bunch of races and were competing in the Chase (for the Sprint Cup), I think you’d still see them in the sport.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This issue of performance is interesting because Red Bull never really made serious lasting changes to fix the problem.
Since the team began they’ve had the same guy in charge of competition former F1er Gunther Steiner (UPDATED) The team has been through several competition directors; a string of so-so crew chiefs (Doug Richert, Randy Cox, Kevin Hamlin, Jimmy Elledge, Ricky Viers), and they’ve burned through two drivers, never giving either the time they needed to develop.
And then there is the much lauded Jay Frye who replaced Marty Gaunt pretty early on. He brought to Red Bull a, well, spotty track record. He ran the very mediocre MB2/MBV, and then was at the helm of Ginn Racing. Though the collapse of Ginn wasn’t Frye’s fault, he didn’t always help matters. The team was notorious for its spending and it struggled to find sponsorship. That spending mentality ended up at Red Bull, and was in full effect until this season. To his credit Frye did help drag the team out of the gutter, but with his personnel decisions he’s really done nothing more than turn it into MB2/Ginn 2.0.
Mix the above with the team’s continued commitment to Toyota’s less than stellar engine program and it’s no wonder the team never performed very well.
From Austria to Mooresville, leadership was severely lacking. This is an organization that had a ton of potential to succeed but was never given the time, patience or the right resources to do so.
Red Bull’s demise is surprising, but not completely unexpected – it just couldn’t continue on the same path indefinitely.
Oh, what could have been.