You've won the lottery, inherited a sizable fortune from a rich relative, or your latest product has caught on big-time in the marketplace. Either way, you're sitting on newfound riches and have money to spend like never before, and you’re a passionate stock car fan. So it's time to go racing.

Next thing you do is pick up the phone and search for information on what it'll cost to build a team; not just any team, but a full-fledged Winston Cup operation. Yes, you're ready to compete with the big boys of NASCAR.

First, cool the jets a little, because Bill Davis, a Winston Cup team owner since 1993, has a bit of advice. You're probably going to make a small fortune racing out of the big one cautions Davis. We've seen a lot of people come and go who had a lot of money, and they were going to do this deal. You could sit down and list no telling how many of them. It's just real hard to do this.

We gradually backed in to it and invested a little at a time and built and grew like you do most businesses. It would be extremely hard to come in here now. It would take tens of millions of dollars to come in here and just overnight have everything it takes to go Winston Cup racing.”

Now that you’re sufficiently discouraged—or should be—consider how the sport has grown over the past decade, and how NASCAR continues to look for ways to expand its audience. There are 36 events that count in this year’s championship, plus a couple of non-points events, so you’ll have to research and plan for next year with that in mind. Races will be held all over the country, from California to New York, from Florida to Michigan, and many places in between.

Consider also that expenses have risen considerably with the sport’s growth and increased travel of the past decade. Davis estimates the money required to fund a Winston Cup team for one year is four times what it was when he started in ’93. “It’s a Catch-22,” says Davis. “We’ve certainly got a much better marketing package for our sponsors and all, but at the same time it costs them a lot more money to fund these deals.”

In fact, once a team is in place, it takes between $10 million and $15 million annually to run competitively. Fifteen years ago, that was enough for roughly a half dozen years or more of racing.

When Rusty Wallace won the Winston Cup championship while driving for team owner Raymond Beadle in 1989, he says his team’s budget that season was $500,000. Multiplied by 20 that would now be enough to finance a run with the top cars—for one season. A half million dollars today won’t even get your team signed on with a good engine leasing program. It will, however, allow you to place a driver under contract—provided you decide not to pursue one of the marquee drivers who’ll demand twice that much, or more, before signing on the dotted line. Of course, being the diehard fan you are, you probably already know these things. It’s just that you’ll have to look at them from a whole new perspective as a team owner.

You should also look at how the number of teams has dwindled over the past year. Travis Carter had to park his two-car operation early this season after sponsor K-Mart entered bankruptcy; Melling Racing and owner Mark Melling, players in the game for 20 years, had to pull out of Winston Cup after failing to land a sponsor for this season; and Andy Petree, unable to find a sponsor for one of his cars, had to trim his team in half. It’s a really tough business climate right now, especially for a newcomer.

Now, about that fortune you’re looking to invest. Why not forget this racing deal and spend part of it on three dozen good frontstretch tickets and a motorcoach? You won’t even need a sponsor.