Could a Salary Cap Help NASCAR Level the Playing Field?
The spending in NASCAR has got flat-out ridiculous. Let's be honest here, in NASCAR the teams with the most amount of money to spend, are the same ones that win every weekend, thus making even more money to spend.
Meanwhile, the little guys are the ones stuck at the bottom with no real way to break into the big leagues.
So would a salary cap—such as the one in place in the NFL—help the sport's field to be leveled?
(The idea of a salary cap is to keep one team from spending all the money in the world to "buy" the best players available, you can see it works in the NFL, as various teams have risen to the top over a couple years span.
Look at the Arizona Cardinals this year. However, it's not always effective, look at the Detroit Lions, but at least it tries to give a level playing field across the league.)
I'm not talking about just a salary cap on how much drivers make, what about limiting the amount of money a team can spend on equipment, testing, personnel and above all, sponsorship.
Well the teams don't really spend money on sponsorship, but they do receive various amounts.
Look at it this way, NASCAR controls everything in the sport, except the amount of money each team can spend.
They control how high the car must be, what the weight must be, in other words, every aspect they can to try and level the playing field.
That holds no truer than with the Car of Tomorrow. The car has very little adjustability, and is meant to be able to be run at different tracks, such as taking a car to Martinsville, and later using that same chassis at Talladega.
But realistically, the big boys have the money to still build as many as they want and have track-specific chassis.
Back in the day, a team used to be successful based on its driver.
Today, it's simply this: The team with the most amount to spend—e.g. Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing—are the dominant teams and collect probably 85 percent of the wins and top-10 finishes each weekend.
So would a limit on spending level the field?
Look at today's fields. Roush-Fenway Racing and Team Yates Racing are essentially the same team. They have the same cars, same engines and share a lot of ideas.
Yet, Roush-Fenway consistently wins races and competes for championships, while Yates struggles to get top-20 finishes.
Roush also has five full-time sponsored cars, while Yates (last season) barely had one.
You can't tell me that money difference isn't one of (if not the) top reasons why the performance on the track is so different.
Sure, the likes of Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are portrayed as "better" drivers than the David Gillilands and Travis Kvapil's of the world, but are they really?
Or do they simply drive for a team that has more cash to throw around?
I'm not saying in necessarily for or against any form of spending cap, but I would be interested to see how the roles were reversed if say, Jimmie Johnson were put into a Haas CNC car last year.
Remember, Haas CNC (now Stewart-Haas), runs Hendrick equipment, yet struggled to maintain a top-35 position.
I think the effect of having more money to spend will be all the more prevalent at the end of '09, with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Tony Stewart said the other day that his organization was one of the few that was still adding personnel, while others are laying people off.
This is a team that maintained only one car in the top-35. At the end of '09, how much you want to bet that both Stewart's and teammate Ryan Newman's cars will be top-25 teams?
Why? Because they have the money to spend.
Money may not be the only solution to help level the playing field, but if NASCAR wants to continue to see smaller teams break into the sport (which is the reason they limited the teams to five by the way), they must do something to give the little guys a chance.
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