Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NASCAR needs to police the start and park cars starting with Prism Motorsports.

Last September was the first time I started writing about start and park cars in NASCAR and how they have no place in the sport. However I believe that considering the 2010 NASCAR season doesn’t officially kick off until February 12th with all three national series in action at Daytona International Speedway, this is the perfect time for NASCAR to address this issue.

Starting in Daytona and in some cases heading all the way down to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR will have start and park cars especially in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series. Teams will be 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 (that they can lease 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.

I believe that there are currently two types of start and park cars. The first type are those teams that are attempting to run the entire season with at least most of the races are filled with sponsorship, however unfortunately there are a few holes in their schedule and while they can start the race, they are forced to park the car due to no money. NASCAR is an expensive sport and I don’t see it going down anytime soon.

The teams that fall under this category are really not what I have a problem with. You wish that all teams were fully funded, but especially in this economy when companies are cutting back and laying off employees, that is not always possible. A perfect example of a team last year that falls into this category is the TRG #71 team that sometimes was driven by Bobby Labonte. The team made every attempt to get sponsorship, but they just didn’t have enough for a few races. It happens.

However now we came to the problem, the “start and park” teams that are just in the sport to collect a paycheck by starting and parking over 50%, if not 90% of the races. There is no place in NASCAR for these start and park teams and in essence they are stealing from the sport, meaning they only take from the sport in the form of a pay check, and not give anything back.

I ask you, how is start and park cars entertaining for the paying fans who attended the races? At the same time they are also taking starting positions from teams that are there to race the entire race. Qualifying is already hard enough for go or go home teams as is, but when you make a simple mistake in qualifying and you’re out qualified by a car that is only there to start the race, park it and collect a paycheck that is really bad for the sport.

I remember last season at Infineon Raceway where Scott Speed make a mistake just coming to turn 10 and he failed to qualify for the race. He was out qualified by a start and park car. Red Bull Racing was able to get Speed into the #87, but that’s not the point. The point is there is no reason for trying to run the full schedule as a start and park or only have sponsorship for a few races.

A perfect example is Prism Motorsports. Now I hate to single out a particular organization, but this has to be said and I’m not along neither. Earlier today, Phil Parsons and Randy Humphrey's Prism Motorsports announced that the team is going to attempt to run two cars all season long with Michael McDowell in the # 55 Toyota and the veteran Dave Blaney driving the # 66 Toyota.

"We're going to race those things in," Parsons said. "We have our same alliance with MWR [Michael Waltrip Racing] that we did last year. We're going to attempt every race. We've been talking about the second car, and we solidified it in the last few weeks [because] if you're going to go anywhere and take a shot at getting in, that's the one to do it because the rewards are so great.

"We really don't have any sponsorship. We thought we were really close to having something for Dave for [Speedweeks], and it turned out they went a different direction at the 11th hour. We're still actively pursuing everything we can pursue; we have some good conversations going, but nothing imminent." – Quotes from a NASCAR.com Article)

You would think that since NASCAR has cut the purse by 10% (which I’m not sure why), that start and team teams wouldn’t even bother, but Parsons said the purse cuts announced by NASCAR, while significant, wouldn't be a deal-breaker for his small team. Last year the minimum payout for a team not aided by NASCAR's various contingency plans was $263,963 won by Travis Kvapil for 42nd position in a go-or-go-home Yates Racing car.

Let me put this into prospective, last September 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.

As for 43-car field in each race, I could care less. I would rather have 35-car fields that are fully sponsored cars that are at the racetrack to run the entire race, not 43 cars with a few of them only there to start and park to collect a paycheck. In es

I believe that NASCAR needs to police “start and park cars” right away starting at Daytona International Speedway and extending all the way through the entire season to Homestead-Miami Speedway. One way would be to check is to have to team present NASCAR was all of the paperwork for the team, sponsorship, equipment, crew chief, crew members and anything else the teams need to race on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Of course NASCAR could go even further by only awarding prize money and points to drivers/teams that have raced at least 25% of the race, but that would create a new problem as well. Maybe NASCAR needs to start inspecting racecars that have fallen out of the race during the first 25% of the laps and if it doesn’t pass, take the car for a while.

Any which way, NASCAR needs to police it, start and park cars hurt the sport period.

What do you think?

Related Article:
- Where’s the moral victory in a NASCAR start and park team ladies and gentlemen?