The Start And Park Problem

I spent a beautiful Thursday driving up to Tennessee from the Space Coast of Florida. I passed the Daytona International Speedway just about daylight, and as I continued up I-95, I noticed two unique looking, bright yellow trucks, each pulling a device behind. As I passed the trucks, my wife pointed out to me, they had Speedway Services painted on the side of each truck. That’s when I noticed that what they were towing were Jet Dryers for a race track.

The first thing that came to mind as I watched the trucks weave in and out of traffic,  Nascar was expecting Juan Pablo Montoya in Darlington (SC) for the weekend and had sent out for extra Jet Dryer trucks for Saturday Nights race at the Track To Tough To Tame.

The good thing about a long road trip is, you have a lot of time to think. The bad thing about a long road trip, is, you have a lot of time to think.

My thoughts,  turned again to what in the world is wrong with Sprint Cup racing, and why has the fan base continued to decline over the past few years. One of the things that came to mind, was what was unique about last years race at Darlington, that has not happened in the last calendar year since.

You remember, last year’s race was won by Regan Smith driver of the  Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. What was unique about that you ask? It was the last time a Sprint Cup race was won by a team that was not a Top Tier race team. You know, a single car, under funded race team.

From my perspective as a fan, and not being an economist, I think the financial model that Nascar operates on, is a large reason the racing product they are putting on the track is boring at best. When the Green Flag drops on any one of the 36 races in a season, less than 50% percent of the drivers have an actual chance to win. This situation can’t be good for fair competition that would produce racing that was both exciting and compelling.

It’s a sad reality, but some of the Start and Park teams live so close to the financial edge,  they have to recruit infield fans to help catch tires during pit stops. Can you imagine the New York Yankees having to recruit fans to pinch hit during  a World Series Game, or asking a fan to come in to kick a field goal during the Super Bowl, because they couldn’t afford a kicker.

Imagine being proud Past Cup Champions like Terry and Bobby Labonte being relegated to rides they know they can’t compete in, on a week-to-week basis, but Danica Patrick comes along and will climb into a car that has the resources to win at any track, on any weekend. Bobby Labonte, in his JTG  Toyota has no wins, no poles, no Top 5’s and no Top 10’s, but has an average 2012 finish of 14th, and is 26th in the point standings, only three positions behind Jeff Gordon.

Unlike the Stick and Ball sports, Nascar doesn’t have a method to help underfunded teams compete fairly. There is no revenue sharing, or any other mechanism in place to ensure parity on the track. Where does Nascar spend it’s $4.8 Billion TV revenue?  They continue  modifying rules and car specifications in hopes of producing an exciting race. The rules changes send car owners into chaos trying comply, further hurting the small teams who don’t have the resources.

When someone tries to argue that the Economy is the reason Racing is suffering, I remind them The Masters Golf Tournament was sold out for all competitive rounds at an average of $800 per ticket as well as practice rounds at $400 per. Almost every NFL and College Football games are sold out, and I watched an NBA Playoff game a couple of nights ago where there were a sea of fans with their white shirts, in Oklahoma City of all places. If the product is good, people will find a way to attend.

Race teams rely  heavily on sponsors with adgenda’s other than good racing. Drivers are selected based on their marketability and not necessarily their skill behind the wheel of a 200 MPH stock car. Case in point. I believe a Bobby Labonte could put the Go Daddy #10 SHR Chevy in Victory Lane a lot quicker that Danica Patrick, but Bobby is  never going to be a spokes person for Go Daddy.

The weekend draw for Nascar is the Sprint Cup Series, but the better racing will be in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series where sponsors are usually happy to get out of the way, and let good drivers do what they come to do. Race.

When I finally got to my destination in Tennessee, I wasn’t sure if I was tired from the 750 mile trip or tired from having to much time to think.




When a Nascar race begins, almost half of the teams on the track have no chance of winning the race.


Like Major League Baseball, Nascar has no mechanism to make the teams with poor financing competetive.


Where does Nascar spend the $4.8 Billion dollars they receive from TV. Why are teams left to sink or swim based on getting sponsors?

Tags: Bobby Labonte NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Regan Smith

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