Tuesday, April 20, 2010

COMMENTARY: Eddie Gossage's "Start And Park" Fix Is A Clunker

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage accused start-and-park teams in the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series of "stealing money" last week, and said NASCAR needs to take action to eliminate them from the sport.

"(They) are simply stealing," said Gossage Saturday. "I don't blame them for finding the loophole, but they are going to steal a half a million dollars of our money here tomorrow. They add nothing to the show, not one darn thing. They're stealing. I want real racers, but they're not racing."

Gossage called on NASCAR to either reduce the number of cars in each Sprint Cup race from 43 to 36 -– eliminating more than $500,000 from the purse -– or change the distribution of prize money to make back-of-the-pack finishes less rewarding.

“Last place here is going to pay about $85,000," he said. "That should be $10,000 and the rest of the money should go to the top finishers. NASCAR has an obligation to the fans to not allow this. People are stealing in broad daylight in front of 150,000 fans in the grandstands and millions of people watching at home."

While interesting at face value, Gossage’s quick fixes actually accomplish nothing.

A smaller, 36-car starting field would require NASCAR to reduce the number of guaranteed starters in each race. The remaining positions would remain up for grabs among the so-called “Go Or Go Home” teams, many of whom would continue to qualify on Friday, only to start and park on Sunday.

Cutting the field does not eliminate "start and park." It only cuts the field.

Slashing the payout for the final few positions would save Gossage a cool half-million dollars, but it will do nothing to eliminate "start and park." Low-dollar teams aren't dropping out early because they want to, they're doing it because they have to. They cannot afford the tire and engine bills associated with running the full distance every week, and also cannot risk destroying a racecar.

Neither NASCAR nor Eddie Gossage can force a man to spend money that he does not have, and Gossage's back-of-the-pack purse cut will accomplish nothing but forcing struggling teams like Prism Motorsports, NEMCO and Tommy Baldwin Racing out of business.

Gossage said he is not concerned with the layoffs and firings that his proposed changes would almost certainly produce, saying, “Those teams only have about five employees. They’re not real, race-ready teams.”

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