By John "Dawg" Chapman
What does NASCAR get for 15 million, 231 thousand, 323 dollars?
Not much as it turns out. That's how much prize money the Start & Park
teams took home in 2011 for showing up so that the starting formation
would look the same on TV for the parade lap.
I've heard it said that a part of the TV deal, was that NASCAR would
start 43 cars. I doubt this is accurate, but for some reason NASCAR
seems willing to reward the teams that show up, with no intention
of adding anything to the show.
My question is, do you think NASCAR's getting their money's worth?
Remember we're talking $15 million, 231 thousand, & change. What's
the difference if 43 cars start, & we're down to 37, or so, after 30
laps. Or if only that number started the race?
I've heard all the excuses for allowing this to go on.
First thing people throw out is that these teams are going the S & P
route to keep their teams together, until they can come up with the
money to race. Fair enough, I can understand that, but at what point do
they have to say it's not working? Over the last three seasons, Phoenix
Racing, Phil Parsons, have started 88 races, not counting the ones they
were unable to qualify for, & been running at the end in 5 of them.
Over this same stretch Joe Nemechek (a driver who's skill I admire)
has started 102 races, been running at the end in 7, 5 of them in '09.
Joe was the most successful S & P owner this season. Qualifying for all
36 races, plus running Kevin Conway in 3 more. Joe was able to finish
just one race out of the 36. In these 3 races, Kevin ran a total of 4,
count 'em 4 laps, while winning $234,238. or an average of $58,559.5 per lap.
It would have been $78,079 if he hadn't gotten a little crazy, & run that second lap.
Good work if you can get it.
Another excuse I've heard is that these teams provide employment
in a tough economic environment. OK, things are tough all over. Suppose
that people were hired to build roads that no one was ever going to drive on.
That would provide employment also, but would you consider it money well spent?
I do have to kind of admire Joe Ruttman for showing up at The Rock
in '04 without a pit crew in James Finch's car. I mean at least he was
honest about it. Why would he need a crew? He was allowed to start.
Ka Ching, then was parked by NASCAR on the first lap. Mission
As I said I can understand the strategy, of hanging in, while trying
to put things in place to be able to compete. I just have to wonder,
at what point does it become a business plan?
Both Front Row Racing, & Tommy Baldwin have used the S & P
at times due to economic necessity, but are now racing full time.
More power to them, the only problem is that due to funding, &
the mega-teams. Both programs are mired mostly in the 30's.
Dave Blaney was in line for a good finish at Daytona, until
he was wrecked by Kurt Busch. He steered clear of Kurt at
Talladega, & was able to pull off a third. Got interviewed on
TV afterward. Had to have been a real boost for the team,
as well as Golden Corral, whose Kids Eat Free, promotion
Front Row has both of their cars, the 34, & 38 locked in for the
first 5 races on the new season.
Tommy Baldwin also has the 36 locked in, & is trying to get
the 35 up to speed. I do find Geoffrey Bodine a curious choice
but sounds like he's bringing a little money, & for these teams
money not only talks, it screams.
Kevin Buckler's TRG Racing has come up short, finishing
the season 36th in owners points. Any time teams that really
show up to race, fall out of the top 35, as the 71 did. They
are then subject to being out qualified by the S & P cars.
Thus making it likely that they stay mired below the magic
35th place. Making it that much harder to come up with even
a one race sponsor, much less landing a full season deal.
I'm not meaning to imply that the cars that come to race are in any
better than the S & P teams, quality wise. In fact Joe Nemechek, if he
were to get a little backing, could easily be a solid mid 20's place car.
He regularly qualified well, up among cars with much better backing.
He didn't get the nick name Front Row Joe, for nothing.
For the 71 team next season, finishing 46th shouldn't really be a problem
because of 4 qualified teams going away. At least 2, the 33, & 6, probably
will keep their points & run Daytona. The 33, probably with Austin Dillon,
& the 6, maybe with Ricky Stenhouse. That would leave the slots from the
2 Red Bull cars. So the 71 & 7 should move up based on their finishes.
But this being NA$CAR, & NA$CAR being all about $$$. These spots will
go to the highest bidder, rather than to the next in line. Kevin & Robby
could well end up with them, but they're going to have to pay.
With the shrinkage next year, there will be more opportunities for S & P
teams. Cars are available at bargain rates. Plenty of drivers, with Cup experience,
& skills to get them in the field, & who can blame them?
That begs the question, how many S & P teams are too many?
Next year, instead of 6, we could see 9 or 10.
Here's what I'd really like to see happen. NASCAR could cut the field to 40,
& the 3 less cars would never be missed. Then make the same payout that they
had when the field was at 43. The last thing I'm trying to do is to allow
NASCAR, or Bruton to put more money in their pockets.
In a season when we've lost 4 quality cars, do we really need 4 more field
fillers running around, even if they could get them all to race?
As the field gets weaker, the top 35 rule makes less, & less sense.
The timing is perfect to dump this turkey.
If another of the cuts were to be the past champions provisional,
well I could live with that too.
For an average race this should give them around $200K to work with.
Graduate the money to raise the purse on the bottom third, to help the
teams that need help the most.
Even better would be a pay structure with a straight graduation from
1st, to last, but I'm we'll probably never see that.
For example, at Talladega, Michael Waltrip finished 9th. His payout was
$83,500. Carl finished 11th, his was $128.866. Some of this pay structure
is a holdover from the days when NASCAR promoted 60-70 races a year, & was to induce the top cars to show up. How long ago did that ship sail?
To make sure the money goes where it does the most good, ANY car that falls
out before half way, without a verifiable reason would have their payout cut
by half. In other words, it would no longer be cost effective to S & P.
I want to see the payouts raised, I just hate to see someone like Kevin
Conway who in 3 races, ran 4 laps total, & in each, collected within
500. of what someone got for running the entire race. That's just wrong.
In a perfect world, I'd love to see all cars start that be capable of
Racing is not a perfect world. Never was, never will be. I'd just like see
NASCAR help the teams that are really trying & stop subsidizing the ones
that just show up to take the money & run. Run for home that is.