Starting a Parking: A Problem That Can Be Solved

Lee FraserCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 05:  Dave Blaney drives the #66 Prism Motorsports Toyota during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 5, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

It's something that is frowned upon in the NASCAR world. It's something that if you were to tell people who are unfamiliar with the sport happens, they look at you and say, "Why would teams do that?"

The answer for some teams is they have to, and for others, they aren't breaking the rules.

Which, is correct, PRISM Motorsports (if you want to call them that) houses two cars in the Sprint Cup Series. The No. 66 of Dave Blaney, which is the "flagship" team, and the No. 55 of Michael McDowell, isn't breaking the rules in NASCAR, by now starting and parking two race teams instead of one.

This is a sticky situation. We saw Joe Nemechek's team, NEMCO Motorsports, run two cars in Daytona, so it makes me think, how much is too much?

PRISM Motorsports recently had a car confiscated by NASCAR. The reasons are still unknown to the fans. It is believed by team co-owner Randy Humphreys that the car was taken because NASCAR doesn't like the idea of two cars earning a pay check on Sunday, rather than just one.

Humphreys came out before the season and said the No. 55 driven by Michael McDowell, would be the "money maker" for the No. 66. The 55 would park, and the 66 would run with Dave Blaney.

When the No. 66 qualified fifth for the race at the Auto Club Speedway last Friday, some eyebrows were raised, and questions were being asked.

Everyone, including me, thought that the 66 was going to run that day. But when Dave Blaney rolled his car down pit road on lap 43, we all knew what was going on, and so did NASCAR.

PRISM was running two different qualifying set-ups in each of their cars, and found one that worked. The teams were working together on just making the race, and that's it.

It's a clear abuse of the rules, but still, not against the rules. NASCAR took the No. 66 car and are keeping it until after the race in Las Vegas to perhaps send a message to PRISM Motorsports that they do not like what is going on here.

But again, PRISM Motorsports are not breaking the rules by doing this for one, and for two, they by all means were not the only team starting and parking on Sunday.

Aric Almirola's No. 09 team, Joe Nemechek's No. 87 team, and Boris Said's No. 26 team, as well as the two PRISM Motorsports cars all started and parked on Sunday.

I can see NASCAR's point in taking the No. 66, they do not want teams to park two cars, because then it gets out of hand and we could have these owners parking four cars every week.

That would be a very bad thing for the sport.

But this isn't the only time in NASCAR's history that they have had start and park teams.

In 2002, and 2003, there were many start and park teams, as the economy was much like it is today.

However, the full-time teams were not getting beat out by these start and park teams.

It stinks to see the No. 90 car of Casey Mears go home, at team that is down to run the whole race, and learn something, go home to lose to start and park teams like the 55 and 66.

But it's not so much the speed or the ability of the No. 90 car that had sent them home, it was the fact that they were planning on racing that ultimately let to their departure.

Because the two PRISM cars, Joe Nemechek, and Aric Almirola's team had in mind from the get-go that they were going to start and park, all they worked on was qualifying trim for the first two practices.

The 90 team came down with the intentions to run. In order for them to run, and run competitively, they cannot just focus on qualifying trim, because if they do in fact make the race, the teams that are in the top-35 are working on mostly race trim, and they will not be competitive at all in the race.

With the rules the way they are, you're almost smarter and better off starting and parking, because you're most likely going to make the race.

So what can be done?

Eliminate the top-35 rule would be an outstanding start.

The rule was implemented after the 2004 season after a few big teams had missed races to smaller teams, and ourΒ big sponsors were going home.

Now, the fear of missing a race would be much greater for big teams, if they go back to the old system they would have many provisionals to fall back on, and teams would have to work harder on qualifying set ups.

You see, with the rules now, 36 cars (including Bobby Labonte's No. 71 TRG Motorsports team, with the past champion's provisional) are guaranteed into the race each week.

And that means 36 cars are going to be mostly focused on race trim in the first practice. Leaving 10, out of the 46 entered to work on qualifying trim against each other for seven spots in the race.

Six of those teams, saying that the 35, and 46 would park too, are working on qualifying trim, and qualifying trim only.

The other four, the No. 13 of Max Papis, No. 36 of Mike Bliss, the No. 82 of Scott Speed, and the No.90 of Casey Mears are working on race trim, and qualifying trim.

The 13, 36, and 82 are teams that are funded, if not fully, for more than half of the season, and have the speed to make it in on time either way.

The 90 doesn't have that luxury, they have no sponsor being a brand new race team.

They have no chances on getting sponsorship if they do not make races.

It's just a very messy situation.

The start and park teams are not funded either, but have no reason to be because when they make the race, they're not going to run anyway.

It's nearly impossible for a team to start up and try and make it into the races and make the top-35 with the rules the way they are.

By eliminating the top 35 rule, ALL teams will be on the same playing field coming into the pre-qualifying practices.

The bigger teams will be feared of missing races, and will focus on qualifying more. Then once the cars are qualified, every team that is going to run the race, will focus on race trim, and the start and parkers can just run a couple of laps.

That would be a huge difference for these start and park teams. The teams running the full race would gain valuable knowledge and money to continue to make races, and run to the best of their ability.

It will be better for the sport as a whole.

That was the difference with the start and park teams in 2002, and 2003 were playing by the old rules, and had no advantage over the full-time full funded teams.

The smaller teams that were trying to run the full races, were in fact better than the big teams, and when the economy picked up, these teams were better than the 10 and 22 who missed the races and went home, and let to the new qualifying rule.

It was a rule that was good for that time, but now it's ran its course. It is a rule that's fine when the economy is, but right now, it's a disaster. NASCAR changes rules back and forth all the time, so why not go back to the fastest 43 race every week. It's the only thing that will solve what could be the start-and-park epidemic.


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