The Frontstretch: Nuts for Nationwide: Field-Filling Rearing Its Ugly Head Again by Bryan Davis Keith -- Friday April 11, 2008

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Nuts for Nationwide: Field-Filling Rearing Its Ugly Head Again

Bryan Davis Keith · Friday April 11, 2008

 

Perhaps one of the best barometers to gauge the health of a racing series is to look at the weekly entry list. A once over of the Nationwide Series entry lists so far this season might not seem concerning. Sans the season's second race at Fontana, every race has drawn at least 43 teams to the track, with full fields taking the green flag at six of the series' first seven races.

What these lists don't show, however, is that field-filler teams are running rampant in the series, at a level unseen in NASCAR's top tier series since Joe Ruttman took the green flag at Rockingham without a pit crew during a Sprint Cup race in 2004.

There are currently five full-time Nationwide Series teams that are field-filling week after week; the No. 0 of JD Motorsports, the No. 84 of Elite-2 Racing, the No. 89 of Faith Motorsports, and the No. 90 and No. 91 of MSRP Motorsports. That's right, there is now a multi-car field-filler team.

All five of these teams have attempted every race on the Nationwide Series schedule, and in their respective races have all failed to complete more than 20 percent of the laps run this season. Between them, the best finish any of the teams has been able to muster was Mike Harmon's 36th place run at Nashville. A sixth team, the No. 52 of Means Racing, has completed only 27 percent of the laps run in their full-time campaign, retiring this weekend at Texas after only 42 laps due to a "vibration."

Mike Harmon – owner and driver of the No. 84 of Elite-2 Racing Chevrolet.

The uncompetitive performance of these teams on the track is not due to grave mechanical misfortune. Mike Harmon, owner and driver of the No. 84, openly acknowledged that his focus this season was "the full ARCA schedule. We [the team] worked so hard to get on ARCA's Golden A-Plan, so we sure don't want to lose that now." There's the mark of a healthy series, a "full-time" Nationwide Series driver focusing on an ARCA campaign.

Another example was chronicled by Scene Daily's Mark Montgomery on his tour of the pits at Nashville. Upon walking into the pits of the No. 91 MSRP Motorsports team, Montgomery found the following: "A pit cart and three Sunoco fuel dump cans. That's it. No tires. No other tools. No crew members. While many other pit areas were bustling with activity less than an hour before the race, this one was empty."

Yet, somehow these dilapidated start and park times are consistently making the field. Between the five field-filler teams, there are only five DNQs this season (and one of these was the No. 0 withdrawing at Texas). This marks a sad state of affairs for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

With the car counts for Nationwide races dwindling, it may well be time for NASCAR to consider shrinking the field for the series' races. Having up to a sixth of the field parking early in the race for vibrations is, as Mark Montgomery put it, "an affront to competition," and offers no real benefit to the Series. Those paychecks could be going to the 35 or so cars that are week in and week out running the distance and attempting to compete.
Teams like Jay Robinson Racing, which has fielded unsponsored cars for developing drivers Robert Richardson and Brian Keselowski, letting them log laps and compete. Teams like Specialty Racing, who rather than taking the easy start-and-park route have instead asked driver Kevin Lepage to "race conservatively" and have garnered a guaranteed starting position (the team is 27th in owner points) for their impressive efforts.
It's time for NASCAR to step up and send the field-fillers packing. NASCAR racing, especially at the Nationwide Series level, is all about competition. It's about the race to the finish line, not the race back to the hauler.

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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Douglas
04/11/2008 08:43 AM
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MMMMM?

“it’s about the race to the finish line”???

Hey! You are talking NA$CAR aren’t you?

Not even the CUP series is about “racing to the finish line”!!

(unless your 35th or 36th in the point standings)!

Glenn
04/11/2008 10:03 AM
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Anybody remember back 3 or 4 years ago when Jeff Fuller in the Joe Nemechek owned car made a living out of the “start and park” charade ?
There was even a fan forum that ran a contest each week to see if one could guess what lap Jeff went out on and what reason was given.

Some of the choices were:

Engine
Transmisson
Rear End
Overheating
Brakes
Vibration
Suspension
Electrical

and my favorite…

Driver fatigue

I believe Fuller and Co. used every one of those excuses that year !

grumpyoldman
04/11/2008 12:45 PM
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Did anyone notice some of the Nationwide cars didn’t even practice….why waste the tires and gas when there’s 43 cars for 43 places

Kevin in SoCal
04/11/2008 12:50 PM
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I’m sorry, I thought I was in The United States of America, where people still have choices and the freedom to pursue them. If someone wants to show up, run a few laps, and park it, that’s their choice. Why dont you step up and sponsor their cars so they can run the full race, if you’re so concerned about it? Oh, you dont have any money either? Well at least they’re out there on the track getting some recognition and hoping to attract a sponsor with what little money they have.

Sharon
04/11/2008 01:32 PM
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Having so many Cup drivers running for a Nationwide championship and just completely hogging the series for themselves, deters up and coming drivers from even trying to join the elite, and yet owners put inexperienced drivers in Cup cars. Makes little sense…..a terrible trend in the sport.

Ron
04/11/2008 01:35 PM
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It’s easy to laugh at the start and park cars. You have to admit it would be a lot more embarrassing if the race didn’t have a full field or if your favorite driver missed the field due to too few spots in the field. The real embarrassment is the small Nationwide Series race purses. The Truck Series is even worse. The Nationwide race winner typically takes home a smaller check than the last place finisher in the companion Cup race. If the purses were bigger they would run more laps. No solid sponsorship means start and park for these race teams with shoe string budgets is the only option until financing $ is found. We need to also remember they are chasing a dream to make their teams competitive but certain realities, $, prevent them from doing more. A lot of these start up field filler teams are really strong in lower series and it takes time to adjust to running competitively to the Cup assisted ones with their technological and financial advantages.

D. Brown
04/11/2008 04:05 PM
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Couple ways to make Start-and-Park unprofitable:

1) Require all teams to buy (lease) the full allotment of tires for the race weekend. Most S&P teams lease one set, total.

2) Require teams to have a minimum 5-man over-the-wall pit crew on site.

3) Pro-rate the prize money based on number of laps completed, ie do 10% of the laps, get 10% of what the prize money would have been for that position.

I know these teams are struggling for exposure, but you have to prove you can run the whole race to get any sort of sponsorship opportunity. I don’t see sponsors jumping at the chance to put their decals on a field filler.

Kevin
04/11/2008 08:15 PM
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Not even the CUP series is about “racing to the finish line”!!

unless your 35th or 36th in the point standings)!

Dang, Dougla$$ just showed what a genius Brian France is. Add that to the guys who are in earshot of the top 12 and you’ve got a race.

Goes to show that even a blind, clueless, can’t change his own oil or setup a lawnmower, squirrel gets an acorn sometimes!