The Frontstretch: An Open Letter to NASCAR On Their New Start and Park Rules by Bryan Davis Keith -- Thursday March 4, 2010

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An Open Letter to NASCAR On Their New Start and Park Rules

Bryan Davis Keith · Thursday March 4, 2010

 

Dear NASCAR,

I never would have thought it possible, but finally it seems that you have recognized what an embarrassment the epidemic of start and park has become to your sport. The proposed rule change to confiscate the engine of the car that finishes last without being involved in an accident realistically can and should motivate teams at the back of the field to run more laps, discourage parking early, and could very well prove an effective deterrent to carpetbagging owners such as Phil Parsons that have exploited a sport’s integrity for that of their own wallets.

Aric Almirola’s last-place finish last week, parking after just 23 laps, finally spurred NASCAR to take action against the start-and-park brigade – confiscating his Phoenix Racing engine to perform a post-race inspection that’ll likely cost the team tens of thousands of dollars in rebuilding fees.

Because, let’s face it… it’s not just the media struggling for something to write about that’s brought this issue to the forefront. The Camping World Truck Series has had as many as 13 trucks parking early in races, while the Nationwide Series has seen the practice turn from a method of survival to a means of profit, courtesy of MSRP Motorsports. And the model that worked so well in the minors didn’t take long to spill right over into where teams can make the big bucks: the Cup Series. Fast forward to the start of 2010, and it’s now pretty much everywhere you look. Millions of dollars in purse money and hundreds of spots in race fields disappeared last year alone thanks to the practice. It’s no longer something to be ignored, because it’s very visible on the race track as well as off it.

There are also a ton of race fans out there that have realized the damage this epidemic has done to the sport. They realize that guys trying to race can’t due to being outqualified by those with a decided mechanical advantage, because when the green flag drops, they’re going to run 20 laps, not 200. Believe it or not, race fans out there do care about more than the Jimmie Johnsons and Tony Stewarts dominating the front of the field.

We at Frontstretch, along with many others, have chronicled over the last few seasons the problems caused and the laughable exploits of these start and park race teams; and, as one “citizen” journalist, I want to say thank you to you, NASCAR, for finally taking action.

I can only hope that in moving forward, you realize that you will have to make sure your new rules for the last place finisher have teeth. Officials need to be constantly observing work going on behind the wall, to ensure those race cars are actually being worked on – not playing chicken with each other to run an additional three laps here and there just to avoid last place finishes while still getting away with not competing. Confiscating engines is not going to be enough… stripping them down to the point of a rebuild is going to be a weekly necessity. To curb this practice once and for all, finishing last needs to absolutely become an unacceptable, fiscally undesirable outcome. From a racing perspective, I can’t think of anything that makes more sense than to make finishing last place, well, harsh.

I can also only hope that you realize the other two of your three national series are still facing this problem, but threatening car confiscation and engine teardowns in Nationwide and Trucks will pose an existential threat financially to legitimate lower-level race teams that might be unlucky enough to finish last. While the solutions that have been put forward do make sense, the problem should be addressed at the top level of the sport first, with the threat of weekly engine teardowns for last place finishes either driving teams to race longer… or stop showing up to take advantage of guaranteed purse money. In the Nationwide and Truck ranks, solutions need to be put forward that will not drive a legitimate race team unfortunate enough to finish last to the point of bankruptcy.

Be it prorating purse money, more detailed inspections of cars to confirm mechanical calamities have actually befallen them, whatever it takes, a different system of deterrents to start and parking needs to be devised to ensure that the competition of the minor leagues – series that more than any other need wholesome, integral competition to keep them viable – are something that fans will continue to watch.

Most importantly, like anytime I compliment you as a sanctioning body, I can and do consider your track record of saying the right thing, only to do something the exact opposite. I was at the track at Atlanta last March and saw firsthand the impact start and park had when Dave Blaney and Mike Bliss sent full-time racers Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield, and their sponsors, home… the same weekend that you came forward and said you owed it to the race teams out there to make sure that the “supposed” start and park teams were actually on the up and up when they came to the track. And while your words managed to have Dave Blaney run around 100 laps instead of his usual 20 that March afternoon, within a matter of weeks it was back to normal, with cars parking after only a handful of laps while NASCAR and its salespeople at NASCAR.com started claiming start and parkers had no impact on the competition of the sport; they were, in fact, nothing more than a means of opportunity.

So, know this moving forward: We will not forget your track record of not living up to what you say. Those of us in the racing media that deplore this practice and recognize the threat it poses to the sport will still be investigating, week in and week out, who is doing it and who’s losing out as a result. We will be investigating whether motors are being torn down, per your new rules. We will be keeping an eye on pit and garage stalls, noting when we see teams with two sets of scuff tires in their pits for a full 500 miles. We will be watching you, NASCAR.

You’ve taken one step forward. You deserve credit for it. But you must follow through. And you will follow through.

Because you are being watched.

Sincerely,

A dedicated journalist

Contact Bryan Davis Keith

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Robin
03/04/2010 06:33 AM
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Good article Bryan. I agree with everything you said, but at the same time, I can understand what the S&P teams are doing – and that is being able to at least keep a toe in the sport that they love and I can’t help think about how many more people would be without a job if a lot of those teams closed down. I just think it is a sad situation that these teams have to resort to S&P just to stay alive.

Doug In Washington (State)
03/04/2010 09:43 AM
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Real easy- NASCAR confiscates the part the team claims failed. Well, it’s “broken”, so it’s useless anyway. If it’s really broken, the team gets it back. If it’s not, they don’t get it back.

Or prorate the prize money based on how many laps completed. I realize that some feel that S&P is the only way to get track exposure for teams that can’t afford to run, but folks like Prism(MSRP) have made a mockery of that, by having cars built solely to run a hot qualifying lap. MSRP was consistently qualifying in the top 15 last year in the NW series, often faster than the Cup guys.

What was lost in this whole S&P thing is that the #66 ran the entire race at Vegas a week after getting their “good” (read- set up for qualifying) car confiscated. Hmm… I wonder where the money for tires and pit crew magically showed up from, considering they had absolutely no sponsorship on the car. A bit of a mandate from NASCAR?

Carl D.
03/04/2010 11:15 AM
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Here’s an idea for the NBA… make it where a few games are played between an established franchise team and a scratch team from the local neighborhood gym. Offer the scratch team $25,000 just for taking part in the tip-off. Tell the scratch team that at any time after the game has started, they can take their ball and their 25G and go home. While this probably won’t be very good for the NBA, it’s still a great way for some guys who are way out of their league to get a toe into the sport.

I’m just sayin’….

Michael in SoCal
03/04/2010 11:35 AM
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Confiscate the ‘broken’ parts and pro-rating the purse money based on laps run – both great things to do something about the S&Pers. If you didn’t come to run the whole race, don’t come at all.

FedupwithNA$CAR
03/04/2010 11:47 AM
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Want a simple fix to start and park? Is it really that hard to figure out? Stop paying out for all 43 spots! Why should you get money for finishing dead last? Racing is about WINNING!

Dick Lee
03/04/2010 12:30 PM
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The problem ln this issue lies with NASCAR who allowed the super teams owned by a handful of people who win the races and championships. Nobody else has a chance. Why should a team run 200 laps when they can run 20 laps for the same amount of money won?

Don Mei
03/04/2010 01:29 PM
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Dick Lee is right. Start and park would not exist in a world where the sanctioning body maintained a level playing field for all competitors and maintained a set of rules that created “stock car racing”, not COT spec racing. Someone mentioned “brand identification “ recently. Get serious, they are all the same.

Ken
03/04/2010 01:53 PM
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I think we will see the result of the new rules shortly. There won’t be enough cars to fill the field. The underfunded teams will be afraid to show up for fear that they will break early and have to suffer a teardown of the engine that they cannot afford. I’m a fan of the underdog and I have fond memories of Wendell Scott.

Rodney Munche
03/04/2010 02:15 PM
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I have an idea.

Why not just sent some pirates or rednecks to burn down the vacated haulers & race shops of these thieves and rid the former sport of the presence once and for all. Or sue them (as a collective group of fans) for all of the money they have robbed from us? These guys are scum & NA$CAR is on their side. It reminds me of the cop hooking his buddy up with the good weed on the DownLow. The folks who run NA$CRAP may be fools but they are not idiots. Even the disgusting S&P leaches are wise to the game.

I say its time to play dirty…just as they have been doing for years now.

And may I add that its SO refreshing to read an educated article that does not ignorantly state that this practice “has been going on since the dawn of the sport.”

I swear, if JD McDuffie (God rest his soul) could crawl out and choke some of these morons who say stupid crap like that, I’d pay twice the price of a Start/Finish line seat at Bristol just to catch a glimpse of it.

The true RACERS of this former sport were just that….RACERS. I don’t care if it was lap 499 and they were running in 43rd spot, they were STILL TRYING like heck to get into 42nd position.

Freakin’ idiots.

How dare you disgrace the names of some of the true UNDERDOG, INDEPENDANT COMPETITORS by mentioning their names in the same sentence as jokes like Shelmerdink, Parksons, Baldwimp & James *itch.

Steve
03/04/2010 02:57 PM
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That’s exactly what’s going to happen. Teams will just not show up. And if Nascar has something in their tv contract that specifies full fields, they are shooting themselves in the foot by picking on these guys. I’m not sure what the big deal is anyway. They don’t get tv coverage anyway. Some of you are acting like if a full sponsorship were to develop that these guys will refuse it because its so much more lucrative to start and park. Get real!!

Don’t forget! The 36 car was a start and park last year. That car is now only 37 points outside of the top 35 so they are making progress.

Nascar should be worrying more about the crappy product they are putting out on the race track each week. That in itself is the biggest reason they are losing fans. Its just not interesting to watch. At home or in person

rich
03/04/2010 03:22 PM
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how about nascar only let teams have 2 cars each so they can spread the sponsership around.some of these teams have so much,that’s why the s&p teams have none.

George near Fontucky
03/04/2010 04:27 PM
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Steve, the 36 became a start and park team last season. At the beginning of the season, they were racing, and had sponsorship from Red Bank Outfitters and somebody else. I didn’t go back and check, but I want to say that they qualified for the first 3 races, and starting with Atlanta, missed a few in a row, and sponsorship went away. After that, they resorted to start and park.

Mark
03/04/2010 05:11 PM
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No , it IS just the media struggling for something to write about . Not all of the media of course , just the lesser informed ones .

geoff
03/04/2010 08:11 PM
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all the start & park teams will never match the damage NASCAR has done to itself
Geoff FL

mkrcr
03/04/2010 10:20 PM
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Although we’ll never see it, this rule will create a race within a race. Each start and park maneuvering for the coveted 42nd place. “Dammit, would somebody please give up so the rest of us can park!”

bobby dee
03/04/2010 11:05 PM
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Well. The 66 ran all day. It paid the about same as S&P. If NASCAR had a payout based on combo of race points and laps completed, things would change.

Duane
03/04/2010 11:31 PM
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You people kill me if you have a problem with these s&p why don’t you donate money to them to race. Do you know how much money NA$CAR/France family make per weekend and you are ok with them trying to stop teams from honestly making the races. Maybe the little teams could race more if it didn’t cost $22500 to get a car certified to race and that money all goes in NA$CAR’s pocket. Owe by to way if you go to the track the overpriced food and beverages you drink are courtesy of the France family as they own the concessions. Also if you didn’t have to get sponsor approval from NA$CAR and then worry about if they will take the sponsor for themselves and make the product the official whatever of NA$CAR. I own a sprint car team and I know how much it cost’s to race how many of you people own teams and know what it takes to race. I wish all the cars could race but let these small teams alone I’m glad they show up and just maybe if they make enough races they will get a sponsor and be able to race unless all of you would like to give money since s&p are ruining the sport. I believe you all need to check the history of NA$CAR in the early 70’s they were begging the little teams to show and run all the races so they had a good field of cars. What if they wouldn’t have showed up where would are sport be today if back in the day they only had 10 to 20 cars racing. I believe the sport would have been in bad shape and if the crowds got small how could you bring a sponsor to the track and say be on my car when the grandstands are half full, it wouldn’t look very good. Remember this was in the days before live TV so we needed that era to suceed so we can have what we have now. Also if NA$CAR is so worried about illegal cars getting into the race then tear down the pole winning car down to the last bolt because we all know what the advantage is to having the first pit selection.

djones
03/05/2010 01:01 PM
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I have often wondered if NASCAR wanted the S&Ps in the field. When they fall out of a race, it keeps the bigger teams from finishing last (38-43) thus getting more points and money.

Which would cost a S&P team more money? Hitting the wall just enough to be out of the race and fixing it or having NASCAR tear down your car?

Kevin
03/05/2010 01:15 PM
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The 36 start-and-parked some in 2009, but they also attempted to run full races on multiple occasions. I don’t have a problem with a team like that—legitimately trying to be a full-time team but sometimes forced to park early just due to a lack of funding.

This was a great article and I support NASCAR’s new rule on this. I hope they follow through and that it has a positive impact.

Two teams illustrate very well why S&P is bad for the sport: the 90 and the 46. Neither has made a race yet this year. The 90 has stated they will run full races, and I’m not sure about the 46 but I have a feeling they would at least try. Instead, Casey Mears and Terry Cook have had to sit at home and watch the last 3 races, watching various teams park early and knowing that they could be out there racing instead. These guys deserve to be in the race, but S&P teams are taking that chance away from them.

And I hope no one uses the tired argument “if they can’t beat them, they shouldn’t be in the race anyway!” because it is not based in reality. Dave Blaney qualified 5th at California. Did all the teams starting between 6th and 43rd not deserve to be in that race?

pixboy
03/05/2010 05:51 PM
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you people defwending the S&P’s are a joke if you think it isn’t affecting the competition…What effing rookie class do we have…Terry Cook wants to RUN RACES and all these marons are doing is preventing a legitimate low budget team grom actually racing. If you idiot defenders want to watch that kind of crap watch F1 where there is no competion once the race begins and its just follow the leader…

Duane
03/05/2010 09:57 PM
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Hey pixboy what are you watching now. There isn’t any passing in sprint cup now and if Cook and Mears teams were so good they could make the race. So you think if they make the race they would both run up front. I want all teams to race and have a fair shot at making the races. I have a problem with billionares worrying about someone makeing a dollar.

justwannarace
03/07/2010 11:01 AM
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As a former member of a start and park team I feel it is time to speak out on this issue. There are teams who have to resort to the practice simply because the sponsor dollars are not there and the purse is not enough to race on. Some of us really do want to build our teams into legitimate contenders while others simply are taking advantage of the situation. There is one group in particular that is abusing the system more than anyone else. I cant believe that nobody has caught on to the team name in both Nationwide and Cup. MSRP = Marcia M (Parsons)- Stacey S (Humphries)- Randy R (Humphries) and the worst abuser in the history of NASCAR Phil P (Parsons). Then lets look at PRISM which is just another play on the owners initials Phil (P) Randy ® not sure about the I Stacey (S) and Marcia (M) = PRISM. The team owners both live in multi million dollar homes in the Peninsula on Lake Norman and send their children to the best private schools while their understaffed race teams send others home that want to race. FYI Mickey Waltrip has some ownership in this team also. While I aplaud NASCAR on their new policy it will not do anything to fix the problem. These teams and the others will simply blow up a rear gear or scuff the wall or resort to switching weekly who the sacrificial lamb will be for the week. It is not good for our sport to send new owners home after they have invested hundreds or thousands in starting a new team while others milk the system dry and laugh all the way to the bank. Unfortunatley it is almost impossible to make a rule change that does not hurt the little teams that are trying to get started and race. Dont forget that Hendricks, Childress, Yates and others were little guys once and we dont want to crush the dreams of all the racers who love the sport and want to make it to the top.

justwannarace
03/07/2010 11:15 AM
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One other thing, I am at Atlanta and spoke yesterday with one of the engine builders. It will cost approx $3500 to put an engine back together after NASCAR tears it down as long as nothing is broke. That is less than 5% of the purse

Mike Ravesi
03/07/2010 02:42 PM
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Amen brother!