Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Start and Park--What Say You?


Understanding Start and Park

First off, for those of you who don’t understand what ‘Start and Park’ means here is how I understand it:

It all boils down to money in NASCAR. If you’ve got it, you can run a full schedule with full teams and back-up cars. When you don’t, you struggle to keep the one or two cars you have, on the track.

When a team qualifies for a race, they are assured to get what is referred to as a ‘purse’ whether they finish in first or in last place, as long as they start. Usually, its enough for the struggling teams to use to compete in their next race. This has been a practice in NASCAR since its beginning.

For example, Prism Motorsports previously ran their #55 car with McDowell in a 200 lap race. The team had run 195 laps when it experienced a broken driveshaft. Although they didn’t finish the full 200 laps, they still placed 33rd and received $267,495 in purse money. This allowed them to continue on to California’s Fontana race.

Many teams aren’t in the position to purchase new engines, so they put all they have into used ones. They are unable to run full time crews and drivers, due to the lack of funds. They are just doing the best they can to achieve their dreams. Often barely surviving.

So what purpose does NASCAR have in their decision to confiscate any teams race car? The excuse is always the same. “Actions detrimental to the sport of stock car racing.”

At the Fontana race, Prism Motorsports had two cars. #66 driven by Dave Blaney and #55 driven by Michael McDowell. McDowell drove his car to the garage during lap 40, and then Blaney’s car came in on lap 43, both reporting engine failure.

NASCAR's sanctioning body decided to confiscate the #66 car of Dave Blaney. When Bill Henderson, general manager of Prism Motorsports, was asked why he thought this had been done? Henderson replied, “Because they can.”

Do the ends justify the means here? 

John Darby, the Sprint Cup Series director, stated the following, ”We’ve got to make sure that we fulfill our responsibility to our competitors to make sure that everyone is playing with the same rulebook and adhering to the same rules—and that means everybody. That car deserves a look at to make sure it’s up to start.”

NASCAR's Darby stated that choosing the #66 car as the random car met NASCAR's normal inspection policies.

Darby was also quoted in an interview for Fox Sports as saying, “The randomness of the inspection covers everyone in the field. The #66 car was a car that was very competitive. Yes, he was outside of the top 35, but he was the fastest of the group. He was fifth overall qualifying and he led the race today.”

With his primary car gone, all that he has left is the back-up car. A normal back-up car sits without all the basic necessities of the primary—springs, shocks etc. Unfortunately, this leaves them without a complete car to race in Las Vegas next weekend.

Darby’s informed Henderson that his hopes were to have the car inspected in Las Vegas and returned to Prism Motorsports in a “timely fashion” but couldn’t guarantee it. Even if its returned before the race, it won’t be enough time for them to set the car up, practice and qualify.

So, if they can’t qualify and race next weekend, this struggling team will lose at least $100,000 for starting the event. Its a vicious cycle in that by not at least starting in Las Vegas can set them back for the following race.
Its as though Nascar has fined them for something that is not even known to be a rule.

This leaves me to question NASCAR's motives regarding their decision. Are they hoping to send a message to those teams who ‘Start and Park’, collecting a check without the intent of finishing, or are they more concerned with NASCAR’s appearance with the showing of a short field.

This blogger feels that the ‘grey area’ here is somewhat like an insurance policy for the teams that can’t afford to compete with the ‘Big Boys’. This gives them an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

How do you feel about ‘Start and Park’? Leave us a comment on your feelings regarding it’s place in NASCAR?


Opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and may not reflect those of the site or it's other contributors.


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