Sunday, September 27, 2009

There is no place in NASCAR for start and park cars.

Currently in 2009, in all three NASCAR national series (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series), one problem that continues to upset some NASCAR fans and makes the sport look bad is “start and park cars”.

Currently in all three national series especially in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series, teams are showing up to the racetrack unprepared to run the entire race. Some teams go so far as to show up without a crew, a crew chief, tires (they lease or buy their tires at the track from Goodyear), and/or equipment to run the entire race. In one Nationwide Series race I believe back at New Hampshire, a team was black flagged for not having a crew chief on top of the pit box, there was no crew chief, how does this get by.

Let me clarify something, currently in NASCAR, there are two types of start and park cars.

The first type are those teams that are attempting to run most or the entire season and while most of their schedule is filled with sponsorship there are those few races that are not filled. So in order to keep the team going (people employed), the team is forced to qualify for the race only to start the race and park the car for 43rd place money.

These are not the teams that I have a problem with. I can understand especially in this tough economy where companies are cutting back on sponsorship dollars that some teams have to do that. One team that is a perfect example is the #71 TRG team.

Take last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for example, the team originally was going to be another start and park car for the race because they just didn’t have enough money for that race. But because driver Bobby Labonte not only qualified the car 8th and a few New England companies including a Massachusetts insurance company stepped up to sponsor the car, they were able to get enough money especially for the engine lease and tires to run the entire race and they finished in the 22nd position.

In the #71’s case, they are a team running most or I believe the entire schedule and they just simply a few holes during the season where they don’t have sponsorship and in those cases, they are forced be a start and park car. The majority of time, they are running the entire race, so it is what it is.

However this brings me to the second type of “start and park” car where I do have a problem with. There is no place in NASCAR for these start and park cars and in essence are stealing from the sport, meaning they only take from the sport in the form of a pay check, and not give anything back.

These are the start and park teams that show up to the racetrack week in and week out or the majority of the time with no intension of running the entire race. They show without the necessary equipment to practice, qualify (which is taking a starting position away from a full funded team that in some cases like in the Cup Series with Scott Speed in Sonoma made a mistake during qualifying and didn’t make the field) and start the race and park the car while the other team like Morgan Shepherd (who typically runs the entire race) in the Nationwide Series goes home.

Let me put this into prospective, take two weeks ago for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Richmond, the 43rd position was worth $14,677 and the car didn’t even complete a lap. The results say out on lap 0. Four other cars came was in the bottom of the grid with around the same amount of money. The amount differs with sponsorship, but don’t ask me to explain it.

In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond, the final race to the chase race, the 43rd position team came away with $68,022 and it’s a team that normally is a start and park car.

This is an area that NASCAR really needs to look especially at in the inspection process. If a team comes to a NASCAR race, they should have to present the car, the crew chief, the crew (not pit crew because they fly in race morning), and all of the necessary to run the entire race. If you can’t present everything, you shouldn’t be allowed to practice or qualify that goes double for the crew chief and the same process before qualifying and the race, no crew chief, no race, no pay check.

Now I realize that some teams like I pointed out above the #71 isn’t going to be running ever race, but if cars are showing up without everything to run the entire race, go home.

If NASCAR does this, this might create a problem with not having enough cars (43 in the Nationwide Series and Cup Series and 36 trucks in the Track Series) on the starting grid.

Well it might create a smaller field, however 43 is just a number that NASCAR came up with years ago that can be in each race, sometimes NASCAR increases the number in some races in some series.

I personally don’t see an issue here, I would rather have a 39 cars starting field in a race (including the Daytona 500) that are there to run the entire race, are up to speed, and are giving something back to the sport, then 43+ cars where some are there to just start and park for money. There is no such thing as easy money, so enough is enough with start and parks week in and week out or in the majority of races especially when you have fully funded teams going home or teams that are there to run the entire race.

What do you think?