Sunday, February 28, 2010

How do you get a moral victory if you’re a NASCAR start and park team?

One of the biggest stories so far in 2010 among NASCAR fans and the media are NASCAR start and park cars. While there wasn’t any start and park cars in the Daytona 500, last weeks Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California was a different story as the race saw four start and park cars.

However it wasn’t until the day before the Auto Club 500 on NASCAR.com that I read an article that left me completely upset and for a moment, speechless. The article painted a amazing picture of Dave Blaney’s #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota that they had a “moral victory” on Friday as they qualified 5th for Sunday’s race.

How does a NASCAR start and park team have a moral victory?

In an article on NASCAR.com, the writer said:
Blaney's work for the weekend essentially was done long before Sunday's green flag was set to drop. Remarkably, Blaney qualified fifth in the No. 66 Toyota that his Prism Motorsports team plans to start and park Sunday.

With only three members working for his team this weekend, Blaney really had no choice. He knew Friday qualifying would be his "race." "That's our weekend," Blaney said, who will make his 334th career Cup start Sunday. "Yeah, it's different. But I went through it all of last year, too. Friday's are fun. They're competitive and there is a lot on the line.

"And then it's over. Even if you make it, your weekend is over. It's kind of hard to deal with -- but that's where we are at this point in time."

The other Prism Motorsports car, #55 Michael McDowell ended up having his moment too by qualifying in the 30th position. In the article, the crew chief said that it costs around $60,000 for them to come out to the west coast and the purse for 43rd was $82,690.

“It's not really about the bottom line for us," Henderson said. "It's about trying to keep the eyes of sponsors on us. All we can do is try to keep doing what we did here this weekend, and hope someone with some money to spend in our sport will notice.

"The top teams might be looking for $15 million to run a season. We can do it for more like $5 million." (Quotes from Article)
In reading the article, you do tend to fell for drivers like Dave Blaney, his new teammate Michael McDowell as well as others like Casey Mears who are also in the same boat and while I understand where they are coming from, meaning either being a start and park driver with hopes of running a full race or just sitting home on couch watching the race. However I really look at start and parks in a completely different way.

As I started last month over in an article called “NASCAR needs to police the start and park cars starting with Prism Motorsports.” there are two types of start and park teams, one that has sponsorship for most of the races, but has to start and park for a few races to fill the schedule. Last year a classic example was the #71-Bobby Labonte.

But the other type is the teams that for most of the races start and park and to me that’s essentially stealing from the sport, meaning NASCAR and the fans. I don’t mean to really focus on Prism Motorsports, but they seem to be headlining this whole deal in the Cup Series. I mean for example, in 2009, Prism Motorsports #66 (one-car team) attempted all of the races, qualified for 30 races and start and parked 27 races completing 12.6% of the laps.

So far in 2010, now Prism Motorsports has a two-car team with teammate #55-Michael McDowell and while the #66 fully raced in the Daytona 500 and the Shelby American 427 at Las Vegas, the #66 start and parked last week in California and there second car, the #55 has start and parked California and Las Vegas after not making the Daytona 500.

I know it’s not about the bottom line with some of these teams including Prism, but more towards finding a sponsor, but if you don’t have anything and haven’t in a long time, it’s really time to think about calling it quits. And what really gets to me is Prism Motorsports in particular did this last season and for 2010, expanded to a two-car team, but with no real sponsorship. How do you run two cars with no sponsorship?

Now I’m not the only NASCAR fan that has spoken out on this, however Larry McReynolds said on SPEED during the practice and qualifying for the Auto Club 500 that he disagrees with the people online speaking out against start and park teams. He said that these teams are employing people and just trying to get by.

Well Larry McReynolds, while I normally agree fully with you on most subjects NASCAR, this time however I strongly disagree, because there are other fully sponsored teams at the racetrack too that for whatever reason didn’t make the race. If that happens enough, those people will be unemployed now.

Other reasons could be that NASCAR wants 43-car field. Personally I would rather see 36, 38, 41 fully sponsored car fields with drivers that intend to run the entire race, then 43 and a few go home after two laps.

NASCAR fans buy tickets, and sponsors pay to get there name on the race, so when you have a start and park team, fans go there wanting and paying to see a race, if it has 43 cars, but only 41 intend to run the race, fans and sponsors now paid to see two cars turn a few laps, pull in the garage area and call it a day. So if the number up above are right, then that 43rd team at California just made $22,690 for running a few laps, while somebody else went home with nothing.

Now, let’s do a little more math, if you times that by two-cars and if its $60,000 per team to come to California, Prism just made $45,380 for qualifying for the Auto Club 500, but only turning less than 50 laps each. That’s not enough to run a team, that’s not even enough to get home and to the next race. And I want to point out one more thing, some of start and park teams have people who volunteer their time, no paycheck, so where does the employment come from? I know that in 2009, Tommy Balwin Racing had a few volunteers just to get the operations off the ground.

Bottom line is this, I went to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to watch a race last June (when Joey Logano won) and I paid to see the 43-car field race, not 38 cars race and 5 cars run a max of 67 laps and then park it, where is the racing in that?

All I can say is, I hope it was worth it, but for all start and park teams that do it regularly either in the Sprint Cup Series or in the lower series, namely the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, your stealing from NASCAR, its sponsors and the fans, it’s time to think about calling it quits and go find a race that you can actually race the entire thing.

If you’re a racer, then you know what I’m talking about and it shouldn’t matter too much if it’s the Cup Series or a local short track like Bowman-Gray Stadium, its racing the entire race, not running a few laps and going home. I know that I’m being hard here, but sometimes being brutal, but honest is the only way to get the point across.