In a very surprising move from the head offices of NASCAR, news on the street is indicating that NASCAR will redistribute the prize money from the last five spots of a race field to the rest of the field. This new financial re-balancing act is aimed at eliminating 'start and park' teams, and will be making it less profitable for those kinds of teams to run races.
Quoting NASCAR president Mike Helton at an event in Detroit, "We moved prize money higher in the purse, so if someone's intent is solely to run a lap or two and park, the revenue stream shrinks."
The move will be taking $4k from each of the spots from 39th through 43rd and redistributing it. So finishing in those positions no longer has the allure of what cash there was in previous years. According to TMS president Eddie Gossage, 'start and park' teams mustered up $17 million in prize funds in 2012.
Apparently he doesn't like the little guy having a shot at the big ranks.
What this means is multi-fold (in my mind):
Is The Small Guy Done?
No longer will the small guy who thinks they might have a chance, have a financial chance to be competitive if they can't make enough to come back or make it worth their while.
Albeit, I don't think I've ever seen a start and park give anyone a run for their money, but if they do well enough to keep on going, that gives them some form of a chance to improve.
I'd hate to see this kind of rule had been in place when Rick Hendrick or Richard Childress were trying to get into NASCAR, back in the day.
Does This Favor the Big Money Teams?
If you think you were sick of Jimmie Johnson, get used to it. Now if start and parks can't swing a shot at cashing, will they actually have incentive to even try? No, but the teams with the money will be able to survive and thrive and not be hindered by one (or five) less teams on the track.
NASCAR says they "want to produce an exciting and competitive racing atmosphere for our teams and our fans, and we think the revised distribution provides a better balance." And I feel like I've just been buttered up with one of those useless, polictically balanced statements from a politician.
I don't get how moving prize money from the last five spots of a field is going to make the top-20 teams that we are already watching, creates any more of an exciting race atmosphere.
Hell, 'start and parks' are vapor in the wind after a few laps.
Let me ask this:
Sure, some folk might not like 'start and parks,' I get that. But has a struggling race team ever diluted your race experience? Have they ever gotten in the way of the top-20 teams in any sort of regular fashion? Or are you too distracted by when all the teams settle in for the middle of a race to pace it out and see how things unfold?
Will Fields Shrink?
With less money in those last five spots, who is going to compete for spots that don't pay? Seriously? Because of this, I am concerned we'll be seeing starting fields of less than 43 teams this season.
Is this what NASCAR wants? Smaller number of cars on the track? Did Bruton Smith have this in mind when he called 'start and park' teams a "disgrace to the sport" last week? Is this NASCAR buckling yet again to Smith? NASCAR says no, but the timing seems interesting at best.
Where Does Any Team Come From?
Someone has to start somewhere and even though these starting opportunities seemed a bit more lucrative, I'm not sure how a struggling team will break into NASCAR Cup competition if they don't get enough funds to do so.
If NASCAR has to do something (And I'm not sure why this is really happening), then why don't they put a "minimum laps" cap on race fields? Instead of pulling money out from under potential competitive teams, force them to run a specific percentage of laps. And if they willingly pull out, fine them.
Now, because they'll be losing tire money or pit-crew money, they'll have even fewer laps to be able to run.
If the start fields so end up shrinking, suddenly NASCAR will be looking somewhat like another real victim of the economy.
Sure, regular fans know what's up, but the happen-stance fan won't. And along with moonshiner images, the regular Joe out there might just think that.
Now, if a legitimate top-35 team has a first lap issue (remember Jimmie Johnson in the Daytona 500 being taken out in the first lap?), they'll also be shouldering the burden of coming in last and taking that small financial burp along with it. (I know... it won't happen that often, but every now and then, it does.)
So do 'start and park' haters feel vindicated to some degree? Do you think making it harder to survive in the sport for upstarts is one of the answers to this situation? Do you like the idea that when you have only 35 to 40 cars making a field, that most of those cars will be on the track longer as the back two-thirds of the field gets lapped, as always any way?
I've never had any real issues with the struggling team. And some name-brand teams have ended up in those spots... I've watched Bill Davis Racing use up start and park spots, as has Tommy Baldwin Racing too.
Well, we'll see how this pans out throughout the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup race season. Maybe they're on to something and maybe this won't be the impact I'm worried it might be.
Time, in all matters, is the telling factor!