The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: Profiteering, Points, Tim Richmond, And Feeling Old by John Potts -- Thursday April 5, 2012

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Duncan Smith asks us, “Could you explain the finance behind start and park cars? Do the owners make a profit? Why would someone sponsor one of these cars? Why would a driver be in one of these cars?”

Duncan, the obvious reason is that if it wasn’t profitable, they wouldn’t be doing it. I’m not privy to the expenses of a team operating on a shoestring budget, but the payouts are made known. The largest payout for a last place team so far (Daytona) was over $267,000. The lowest payout so far was at Phoenix, and that was more than $64,000. The total of lowest payouts for the six races to date add up to nearly $600,000. I’m sure they’ve done the math.

In regard to the drivers, I can remember a friend of mine telling me he didn’t want to be a start-and-parker, “…but it pays too much.”

Chris M. wants to know, “Did RCR start and park the 33 at California?”

Before we could answer, Damien responded, “Engine failure for the 33.”

My source, who is close enough to virtually every car owner to get a truthful answer, assures me that they did indeed have engine issues with Brendan Gaughan’s ride.

And Dale in Dubuque writes, “What’s up with the No. 5 car? Is that Hendrick’s old No. 25 team? They never seemed to have a lot of luck.

I had to laugh at that one, Dale, but not because it was a funny question. They did have some “luck” after Tim Richmond got in that seat, but I guess you could call what ended Tim’s career some really bad luck. Harry Hyde, whose opinion I respected very much, said he was the best race driver he’d ever worked with. “You get a chance to work with a guy that good maybe once in your life,” Harry told me. I’m sure Robert Duvall’s line that he saw a driver do things with his race car that he thought couldn’t be done in “Days of Thunder” came straight from Harry, who of course was the model for Duvall’s character.

The reason I laughed was that Ken Schrader once said, “There’s a little black cloud following that No. 25 car around.”

Our last column about being careful what you wish for generated a lot of comment which I appreciate, including one from Kevin, who came up with his suggested point system.

His system starts at 100 for the winner, 90, for second, and then gradually drops the margin between positions until it reaches a single point around 30th. 25 points for 31s through 43rd.

He proposes five bonus points for leading at 20%, 40%, 60%, & 80% laps through the complete portion of the race, five for leading the most laps, and five for qualifying for the pole.

Also, he suggests that every race being an impound event, no cars locked in (toss out the top 35 rule), and qualify the fastest 40 with three provisionals.

I agree with him that this would create competition to get to the front throughout the race, and to stay there once you get up front.

The part I like is the fact that each position would be incrementally worth more points, and it’s equal from 31st on back. No incentive for a wrecked car to go back out there. Plus, if you stay out front during the entire race, there is incentive to stay there once you get there, and because each position as you get closer to the front is worth incrementally more points, guys won’t be as inclined to sit back for a safe 8th place finish because its worth so much more to finish 7th, 6th or 5th… The most important part is that from 31st back is equal points, so there is zero incentive for wrecked cars to hit the track again.

One of those e-mails that makes you feel old came this week. Doug writes that he remembers us from the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, “..back in the day – took a flag or two from you.”

Thanks, Doug. The reason for feeling old is that the place closed after the 1980 season, and I continued flagging through 1984.

There is something else making me feel older. It wasn’t so bad when the sons of the drivers I worked with started driving, but now there’s a few grandsons out there. Will Kimmel, Frank Kimmel Jr., and Erik Darnell, to name just three.

At least I can take comfort in the fact that I earned every one of these gray hairs.

Stay between the fences, folks.

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Andy D
04/05/2012 11:09 PM
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If I remember correctly, Terry Labonte racked up the 3rd highest win total for Hendrick. Driving the #5 car.

There’s no curse on it, it just gets the worst drivers. Or it did until Dale joined the team.