Tuesday, February 03, 2009

COMMENTARY: Like Frankenstein's Monster, NASCAR's Owner Point Rules Running Amok

It appears that the off-season scramble for Top-35 owner’s points is far from over.

Sources tell Sirius Speedway that more owner point transfers will take place this week, as teams jockey to secure guaranteed starting spots in the Daytona 500 and starting berths in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout.

Sources say that Richard Childress Racing (Clint Bowyer), Penske Racing (Sam Hornish, Jr.) and Phoenix Racing (Brad Keselowski) are all working to secure Top-35 owner points this week, a process that will further muddy an already incomprehensible situation.

For the record, NASCAR does not allow the direct sale of owner points. However, the sanctioning body has historically allowed offseason point transfers, as long as the original team owner retains at least a token ownership stake. That’s where things get a little funky.

Based on those guidelines, Bobby Ginn retains an ownership stake in Dale Earnhardt, Inc., after DEI assumed the owner points from Ginn’s #01 and #14 Chevrolets in July of 2007. Has anyone seen Bobby Ginn lately? Does anyone believe that Ginn’s ownership stake in DEI exists anywhere but on paper?

Of course not.

The Ginn/DEI “partnership” is just one in a series of shadow alliances designed to exploit NASCAR’s owner point guidelines. And lately, there’s a new example every week.

Paul Menard’s new #98 Ford will use owner points accumulated by Yates Racing teammate Travis Kvapil last season.

Hall Of Fame Racing’s #96 team finished 39th in owner points last season, but new driver Bobby Labonte is a guaranteed starter for the Daytona 500, thanks to a hastily announced “technical alliance” with Yates Racing that gave Labonte the 2008 owner points from David Gilliland’s #38 Ford.

JTG Daugherty Racing formed a similar alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing recently, allowing the new team to use owner points accumulated last season by Michael McDowell.

Front Row Motorsports announced an alliance with DEI-Ganassi this week, making them a guaranteed Daytna 500 start, despite the fact that FRM ran only five races last season.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the procedural manuevering in the next few days. Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi are now maxed-out under NASCAR’s four-team ownership limit, and would presumably be forbidden from entering into any further alliances. However, Sirius Speedway has learned that Phoenix Racing owner James Finch is working on a deal to lock Brad Keselowski’s Miccosukee Chevrolet into the Daytona 500. Penske Racing is reportedly in hot pursuit of the #22 team’s unused owner points for Hornish, after BDR’s new owners shuttered the racing portion of that operation. Richard Childress is also said to be searching for owner points to lock Clint Bowyer’s new #33 Chevy into the first five races of 2009.

If there’s a way to get a deal done, they’ll find it. And in my opinion, it’s a darned shame.

NASCAR’s Top-35 rule was established to reward team owners for their support of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Based on those guidelines, Michael Waltrip has every right to shuffle owner points from David Reutimann’s #44 Toyota to his new #00 car. Richard Petty Motorsports is likewise entitled to swap points from its #10 Dodge to the new #44. Stewart-Haas Racing is justified in using last year’s owner points to benefit Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.

That’s what the rule was designed to do. It was absolutely not designed to lock teams into the Daytona 500 that did not even exist a year ago.

Front Row Motorsports and driver John Andretti will race in the Daytona 500 next Sunday, likely forcing Richard Petty Motorsports and AJ Allmendinger onto the “Go Or Go Home” list. Which team did more for NASCAR Sprint Cup racing last season, and which deserves to be rewarded?

You make the call.

I am not criticizing Front Row Motorsports, or any of the other teams involved. They’re doing what they’re allowed to do, and with last place in the Daytona 500 worth a cool $260,000, I don’t blame them for exploiting a system that allows – and even encourages – exploitation. The problem is with the system itself.

NASCAR’s owner point guidelines are like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. They were designed with the purest of intentions, but have now gone terribly wrong, breaking free and running amok, terrorizing the countryside. Somehow, failed teams like the #22, 15, 01 and 41 have become hot properties, not for their parts, pieces and personell, but for the owner points that amassed before dying. Teams like Front Row Motorsports, Penske and RCR have been forced to become modern-day cradle robbers, looting the tomb of all valuables in the dead of night. Sadly, NASCAR now finds itself rewarding teams that have not earned that kind of preferential treatment, and penalizing teams that have.

No comments:

Post a Comment