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Fanning the Flames: NASCAR Silly Season Could Be Worse – We Could Have Steinbrenner

Remember when Silly Season used to go into full swing around the Charlotte race date in October? These days, it seems it’s going strong by Indy. Yeah, I know I say this every year… but this season truly seems much sillier than last. Or the one before, and the one before that,

This year is unique in that most of the silliness centers not with the drivers, but the owners. We have the Ray Evernham/George Gillette deal that has been ongoing for all of a decade and may never get done. There are also investment firms popping up right and left in the garage, milling about like pit lizards trying to buy into someone, anyone’s race team. Problem is, these investment firms don’t know a front clip from a fuel pump. They also don’t realize that teams need sponsors… not someone to split the utility bill with them.

Along those lines, Ginn Racing had its version of Black Monday this week, informing veterans Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek they were shelved for a couple up and comers – and blaming lack of sponsors as the reason for their demise. By the way, Bobby, if you’re kicking two mainstays out of their cars, let them out of their contracts while you’re at it so they can get moving elsewhere. Ginn wasn’t done there, though. It appears he’s ready to sell the No. 13 car for what it’s worth in owner points, and we’ve heard Furniture Row is ready to buy. Hmm… wonder how DEI, the company Ginn is supposedly ready to merge with, feels about that?

In other news, the latest bit of Silly Season drama comes courtesy of Robert Yates. While nothing has been announced, confirmed, denied or detailed, I’ve heard he’s finally found someone willing to buy into the team that he’s happy with: The Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team out of the Champ Car realm. Want to guess what they bring that the investment firms couldn’t? That’s right: Sponsors.

OK, onto some questions.

Q: I have been trying for some time to find out how and when NASCAR came up with starting 43 cars. Can you help me with this?Jerry H.

A: Sure can, Jerome. Truth is, there is not much historical significance to the number 43 unless you consider that Richard Petty, driving the No. 43, was the sole reason the sanctioning body instituted the past champion’s provisional (PCP) in 1991.

The standard 43-car field was not mandated until 1998, after events throughout the early-and-mid ’90s were run with fields ranging from 36 to 43 competitors based mainly on the size and location of a racetrack. In 1997, NASCAR decided to standardize the number of cars and came up with the number 42 due to factors such as the weekly number of entries at the time, garage and pit space, event purses and number of teams running a full schedule. Teams would fill the field by qualifying speeds for positions 1-38 with four provisionals granted, including the PCP if needed.

For the 1998 season, NASCAR modified the system (surprise!), and the top-36 qualifiers were given spots in the field based on time, while seven provisionals were available, with the last being awarded the PCP if necessary.

So Jerry, like so many things in NASCAR, the 43-car field is simply a number that seemed right to the sanctioning body, and has no true “canon law significance.”

As a caveat, there have been two races staged since ’98 that did not have 43 cars: The 2001 New Hampshire event that was postponed from September 16th to November 23rd due to the 9/11 tragedy; only 42 cars participated that day. The other was the 1997 Save Mart 350 at what was then known as Sears Point Raceway (now Infineon) that witnessed 44 cars start the event due to an influx of Winston West teams attempting to make the race.

Q: This may sound like it is coming from a newcomer to the sport, but I’ve been watching for a few years. I’ve always wondered why they don’t use brake lights on the cars. I understand that for a lower-tier series or local short track cars, it is financial and just one more thing you have to install. But why not use them in the three touring series?ย – Chayenne D.

A: Honestly, I’m not sure what good it would do, Chayenne. These guys know the braking points on the tracks and, except in a rookie’s case or possibly at the plate tracks, know it would serve little purpose. Besides, with the closing rates of these cars I doubt it would be of any help; by the time you realize the car in front of you is braking, it is often too late — with or without brake lights.

PUGLIESE: KYLE BUSCH WITH NOTHING TO LOSE

Q: Do you think Richard Childress has a realistic shot in the Kyle Busch sweepstakes? All I hear are people saying he is a shoe-in at DEI. I’m one of the few Kyle fans out here. I think once he matures and finds the right place, he is going to be a champion some day. I also like RCR and Jeff Burton, and would love to see them on the same team. I think Jeff would be good for him.Abbey G.

A: I agree that Burton would be good for Kyle; short of Mark Martin, he’d be the best tutor on the circuit for everyone’s favorite loose cannon. The problem is, I just don’t see it happening, Abbey. Childress has been very quiet throughout Silly Season thus far, so it’s hard to get a read on exactly how much interest he has in Busch.

In the end, I still see Kyle going to DEI. They seem to have been the frontrunner for a while and, barring something unforeseen, I don’t see that changing. What I do see changing is the number and the sponsor of the car Kyle would jump in at DEI.

Do you know which drivers outside the top 12 actually still have a shot at making it in based on past history? If you’re still clueless, that’s because you didn’t read the Frontstretch newsletter this morning to go inside the numbers… and shame on you for missing out. It only takes two seconds to sign up, and it’s absolutely FREE! Don’t waste another minute and click here to start getting even more news, commentary, and special features from your favorite Frontstretch contributors.

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