NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: There Were Start & Parkers in 1992? Blasphemy!

Some random thoughts that came to me while cleaning the throttle body on my ’05 Colorado this week… it’s funny where your mind goes at times like these.

  • Let’s not dwell on the Junior/Lance McGrew radio discussion from Bristol too much. Driver emotions always run higher there, and I’d be cussin’ somebody, too, if I made a mistake that dropped me from fifth to 25th.
  • The No. 48 team won all three practice sessions last weekend. Remember the last time that happened? If memory serves, it was at Charlotte during the Chase last season, and the result on race day was the same. Lesson: If you read on Jayski that Jimmie Johnson’s won all three sessions on Friday and Saturday, call “your guy” and let the cabbage fly.
  • Speaking of the No. 48, when will the field learn that those boys are going to take four tires under any and all late-race cautions? Knaus has been beating fools that way for years – and twice this season.
  • Why we love Ricky Rudd, Reason No. 37: Martinsville ’98.
  • My ‘Cats have a really good look at it this year. Not Johnson-good, but good.
  • Again, Jimmie: Explain to me how the winner of three of the first five races is not leading the points standings.
  • How condescending is it when NASCAR talking heads tell us how great the return of the spoiler is for the sport, when just three years ago they continually told us the wing was the greatest NASCAR brainchild since the ’85 Winston? (OK, so maybe that was T. Wayne Robertson’s idea…). You get the point.
  • While I’m on the TV guys… Is Ricky Craven not the best driver-turned-TV guy in the business? Just solid all around. No Kool-Aid there.
  • Kurt Busch really needs to lose the cornflower yellow trim and rims. The all-blue Deuce was every bit as classy as the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 ride.
  • Once you get that damn switch disconnected from the throttle bottle, it’s all gravy from there.

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OK, on to a sparse collection of emails from the past week. I really expected more after a Bristol race.

Q: As a lifelong fan of the Waltrip Bros., I was in disbelief when I saw Mikey park after a few laps into the race. I was aware he was driving for the king of start-and-park, Phil Parsons, but I didn’t realize his career was that far in the dumpster. Will NASCAR ever start policing this practice? – Eric Barnett

A: As Gus McCrae said in Lonesome Dove: “You know how it works, Jake; you ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw. I’m sorry you crossed the line.”

Our boy crossed that line, E. I thought it was pretty pathetic myself. I mean, was Michael McDowell not available? Could Phil Parsons not get Johnny Sauter on the line? Is this what it’s come to for a two-time Daytona 500 champion?

Of course, Mikey and Parsons are buds; otherwise, I can’t imagine everyone’s favorite blue-clad, Twitter-obsessed pitchman tossing aside 26 years worth of professional pride and hopping in one of Parsons’ Cash for Clunker Specials. Still, we’ve all put up with Waltrip racing the leaders hard when many laps down, or using pit strategy in an attempt to get the ol’ NAPA Toyota some camera time. But this wasn’t about camera time… or even about his beloved NAPA.

Anyway, yeah, I was in disbelief too.

To your question, though, I don’t see NASCAR putting an end to the S&Pers. NASCAR needs them too much – or at least it thinks it does. The sanctioning body believes a less-than-full field is a sign of weakness, although I don’t know who NASCAR thinks it’s fooling. After all, times are tough and I think everyone is aware of that.

I’m just not sure how it benefits the sport to have Phil Parsons or Joe Nemechek S&P when Germain Racing and Key Motorsports are more than willing to qualify and attempt the full distance. Teams like Parsons’s claim they’re only doing the early-out deal until they can get a foothold and become competitive, but I don’t think anyone is buying that load of exhaust. It’s a money-grab, no doubt – and they have an entire business model that justifies it.

As for NASCAR confiscating Parsons’s car driven by Dave Blaney in Fontana, well, that was simply a message that a fleet of S&Pers won’t be tolerated – which I suppose is a step in the right direction. However, I’m still not sure why the same team’s car wasn’t confiscated after a third-place qualifying run at Bristol (especially after Blaney nearly tore up half the field in last August’s fourth-place start and subsequent freefall though the pack at the same track).

I counted five S&Pers in the Cup field at Bristol, and five more in the Nationwide race. There were eight in the last Truck race at Atlanta – that’s over 20% of the field. Those are alarming numbers, but I honestly don’t know what to tell you, Eric. All I can hope for is that once the new Top-35 standings kick in for the Cup Series at Martinsville (I’ve given up hope for the other two circuits) we’ll see those that earned a spot actually get one.

Q: Hi Matt. Well here we go again, only this time Jimmie is kicking butt all season, not just at the end. My question is when was the last year someone was off to this hot of a start? Jimmie has won three of five. When was the last time someone did the same thing? And did the hot start equal a championship? Thanks! – Paul V., Richmond, Ky.

A: The last time anyone got off to this scorcher of a start was in the magical year of 1992. We all remember that championship battle, right? Although Alan Kulwicki and his Underbird pulled the 2/15 upset for the title, Bill Elliott shot out of the gate winning an astounding four of the first five races. Back in the good ol’ days, the first five events consisted of Daytona, Rockingham, Richmond, Atlanta and Darlington, by gawd.

Davey Allison dominated the Daytona 500 that year – leading 127 laps en route to his one and only 500 crown. Then it was the Awesome Bill Show as he reeled off four straight, leading 747 of a possible 1,587 laps in Junior Johnson’s Budweiser Ford. And in fairness to Davey, he recorded a second and three fourth-place finishes in that span and actually led the standings after that fifth race! Sound familiar? His five top fives gave him a 48-point lead over Elliott by virtue of Bill’s 27th-place showing at Daytona.

By comparison, Johnson is only 14 points out of the lead this year.

And by the way (this is for Eric), in that fifth race of that 1992 season at Darlington, there were two start & parkers. John McFadden and Kerry Teague, who completed 17 and 15 laps, unrespectively, in cars owned by Jimmy Means and Junie Donlavey. Their official status was listed as “Quit.” Not “Engine” or “Overheating” or “Piston.” Just “Quit.”

S&Pers in ’92… And to think, we often cite that as being one of the greatest seasons ever. Funny what we choose to remember after all these years. Makes you wonder if we’ll even recall a Prism Motorsports ever existed in another 20.

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