To Switch or Not to Switch: That is the Question

Thayne HallyburtonCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2008

Kyle Petty finds himself having to qualify on time next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

This is a task that is almost impossible, seeing as he has been at the bottom of the standings and the speed charts in the first five Sprint Cup races of the 2008 season.

Petty currently sits 40th in the standings and only the top 35 in owner points are guaranteed spots in the race each weekend.

Sometimes the fight for the 35th points position is as thrilling as the battle for the lead.

The dilemma Petty is facing is whether or not to swap drivers and put veteran Bobby Labonte in Petty's No. 45 car and have Petty drive the Cheerios sponsored No. 43 car that Labonte has positioned 18th in the Sprint Cup standings.

Labonte should have little problems getting the No. 45 into the race at any track, especially a short track like Martinsville, where the series is headed to next.

Petty enterprises have already said that they will not be switching drivers because of their contract with General Mills cereals, the main sponsor on the No. 43 car.

The morality of such a thing is questionable at best. There should have to be a real reason for a driver switch, either injury or the firing of the driver. Other than those two reasons, owner points should not be allowed to be carried over.

At the start of the season Kurt Busch gave Sam Hornish Jr. his owners points from the previous season, guaranteeing Hornish a spot in each of the first five races, as he already had his champions provisional (which allows former champions a free pass into six races a year) to fall back on. Ironically he needed to exercise this at the first race of the year, the Daytona 500, where he crashed out of qualifying and needed it to get a spot in the race.

Swapping owner points is one of the few things that I hate about NASCAR. I even dislike the top 35 rule, but I will save that for another article.

To swap points in the middle of the season is not only unfair to the other 50-plus drivers and teams competing in the series but is also a nightmare for sponsors who have millions invested in advertising campaigns using the driver's name in their adds.

If Petty were to take over Labonte's ride, even for two races or however long it takes to get the #45 into a top 35 position, General Mills' add campaigns and merchandise, for that matter, would be worthless.

In the end it is dishonorable for Petty Enterprises or any other team to make such a move and honor is what this sport was built on from the beginning.