Tuesday, January 31, 2012

COMMENTARY: Owner Point Swaps Must End

It’s not like we didn’t see this coming.

 With less than a month remaining before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series invades Daytona International Speedway for SpeedWeeks 2012, it was only a matter of time until some enterprising team devised a scheme to fold, spindle and manipulate NASCAR’s bewildering Top-35 owner points system to its own advantage.

This year’s winner? Stewart Haas Racing. 

SiriusXM Speedway revealed yesterday that SHR has completed a deal to make Danica Patrick a guaranteed starter in next month’s Daytona 500, using owner points obtained from Tommy Baldwin Racing. A year ago, TBR’s #36 Chevrolet finished 33rd in Sprint Cup Series owner points, earning a coveted, guaranteed berth in the first five races of the 2012 season. Driver Dave Blaney will not be allowed enjoy the fruits of that labor, however. He will be required to race his way into the “Great American Race” and the four events that follow, while Patrick -- who did not attempt to qualify for a single Sprint Cup race last season -- rolls into Daytona Beach already penciled into the starting grid. Patrick will run 10 Sprint Cup races this season in cars fielded by SHR, with David Reutimann filling the seat in a #10 Chevrolet out of the TBR shops in the remaining 26 events.

That's not the way it’s supposed to work.

NASCAR's Top-35 system was designed to ensure that team owners retain something of value when drivers depart during the offseason, with sponsor in hand. Unfortunately, what once served as a reward for fulltime Sprint Cup supporters has once again been manipulated to benefit a team without even a single lap in NASCAR's senior series. Sadly, it is nothing new.

A year ago, Rusty Wallace, Inc., used a similar to ploy to obtain owner points from Penske Racing, guaranteeing Steven Wallace a Daytona starting spot, despite the fact that he had never competed in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.  In 2010, Front Row Motorsports used owner points acquired from Yates Racing to lock its #37 Ford and driver Travis Kvapil into the Daytona 500. Latitude 43 Motorsports -- a new team with no prior history in any NASCAR series -- purchased assets and owner points from Roush Fenway Racing to ensure itself a spot in the 2010 season opener as well, setting up a guaranteed payday of at least $250,000 for a last-place finish. Richard Petty, Michael Waltrip, Richard Childress and a number of other prominent Sprint Cup owners have taken advantage of the same rule in previous seasons, with similarly distasteful results. 

For the record, none of the aforementioned teams has done anything wrong. Tony Stewart and Tommy Baldwin are shrewd, astute businessmen, and they know a “win-win” deal when they see one. Merging their efforts under the SHR banner should allow Patrick and Reutimann to remain in the Top-35 and on the “guaranteed starters” list all season long; something neither driver could have accomplished on their own.

Baldwin and Stewart are guilty of nothing other than exploiting a loophole in NASCAR’s procedural manual big enough to float the Costa Concordia. A loophole that will allow TBR to race 26 times this season under the Stewart Haas Racing banner, despite the fact that SHR will contribute nothing to the effort other than token technical support and an over-the-wall pit crew on race day. In “real-world” terms, SHR’s #10 will be two different teams, fielding two different cars under the same number.

Confused yet? Join the club.

NASCAR’s Top-30 owner points program continues to be a solution in search of a problem, and serves only to confuse fans, who rightly ask, "How did he – or in this case, she -- qualify for the Daytona 500?" The now-annual owner-point fiasco will receive more attention this season than it has in the past, simply because Patrick is involved. Through no real fault of her own, the former IndyCar star attracts more than her share of both media attention and controversy. Hopefully, attaching Danica’s name to this whole, dyspeptic mess will prompt the sanctioning body to do what it should have done years ago; decreeing that beginning in 2013, guaranteed starting spots may only be used by the team that earned them in the prior campaign.  

Use them or lose them, it should be no more complicated than that.


  1. I think the only driver guaranteed a startimg spot is the winner from the previous race. This will make for better racing. Winning then has another incentive.

    1. Maybe the guarantees should only go to the top 5 or top 10 or maybe the top 25... this is a totally different debate.

      However, I must disagree with our esteemed host. Selling an asset, in this case the five start guarantee, is the purest form of capitalism and should be allowed. TBR and SHR put a pencil to it and , to quote Dave, came up with a "win-win deal."

  2. I agree as far as getting points from other owners. But maybe NASCAR intended it. The Top 35 ranking IS of value. If another owner is willing to fork over the money, that may be just as important for the newly-Top 35 team as being locked into the first 5 races is for another team who wants to keep their points.

    However, I agree it's shady. If Stewart really wanted to guarantee Danica without having to fork over any cash, I have a feeling he could have done some kind of ownership swap between whoever's technically listed as his car's owner and himself. He'd have the most recent Past Champion's Provisional since, well, he won it last year. :)

    Or here's a thought...do you think Hendrick may have gotten Tony to get TBR's points so Kurt Busch could use the Past Champion's Provisional? I mean, both teams get their engines (at least) from Hendrick. If Stewart had transferred his car's owner points, he could potentially knock Kurt out of the Daytona 500. Maybe Hendrick "heavily suggested" that Tony not give up his own owner points so Kurt could have the Past Champion's Provisional.

  3. Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers did the same thing last year going into Daytona, using the 2010 owners points from the defunct 19 team.

    How much hatred was thrown his way, Moody? Because I don't remember any, especially when he won the race for the famed Wood Brothers. In fact, most folks probably have forgotten that was the case.

    1. Anonymous1:21 PM

      Remember your own words, "Defunct 19 Team". The reason people are upset is because they are taking points from a team that does infact still exist and does infact still have a driver that earned that spot, but because of a loop hole two owners are manipulating the system. It doesn't matter if its Danica or some other person who did nothing but bring money to the show. NASCAR is supposed to be a sport BUT with the fact you can buy your way in makes it no different than big time wrestling. And for the record, people were not happy about Trevor Bayne, Travis Kvapil, and Crash Wallace last year either.

  4. Anonymous11:29 AM

    I agree 100% Dave.

    But, there is far too much corporate money in the pot to not allow points swapping and the Top 35 rule.

    A blind eye will pass over the fans discontent for these two rules/lack of rule like always.

  5. Get rid of the top 35 rule once and for all!!

    It's a joke and embarrassment for the sport that the majority of the starting field for stock cars biggest race is already determined months before the teams ever unload for the 500.

    All it has done is create 35 provisional starting spots that teams can swap & sell among themselves.

    It also makes “qualifying” a farce.

    Johnny Superstar with big time sponsor isn’t fast enough to race? Too bad, better go back to the shop and work harder on the car to make it more competitive for the next race.

    Scrap the top 35 rule to get rid of all this foolishness it’s created, and let’s go back to stock cars roots and start the fastest cars each Sunday.

  6. Anonymous11:39 AM

    they need to do away with the top 35. If 50 cars show up the fastest 43 make the race if a superstar doesn't make it all well move on to the next race.

    1. That would be awesome !

    2. Tom Wilkinson7:41 AM

      Ditto!! I never did like the 35 rule and I like it lesser every year. Nothing against anyone who has used it but lets change it, no lets abandon it.

  7. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Ok I realize this is about money.
    Here is what I do not understand.
    Why would any self respecting driver do it?
    And why would any sponser want to be known for being in the field w/ a driver who was not good enough to make the race?
    Want to put and end to the practice? Every time a car that made the race on purchased points is shown, mentioned it. If NASCAR won't fix the problem, sponsers actions will.

    Robert Y

  8. Todd Hutch12:00 PM

    We all know that NASCAR is big business. With that the good old boy network is in full force. The paying for starting position is not to support small teams, it is for the have's not the have not's.

    The start of a new racing season should be just that. A clean slate so to speak. Protecting teams in a last years point system is as old as the stupid lucky dog rule, which needs to go too.
    If you have a bad day you have a bad day. Some people will say but my driver didn't get into the race. Too bad. This is one reason why America is in the shape it is now. Nobody is a loser, everybody wins. Wrong, one winner 42 losers. You don't qualify, you don't race.

    I know it is entertainment, but the hype that NASCAR throw out to us every single day to tell the fans that it's a new year when it's really just big money talking.

  9. Anonymous12:15 PM

    I agree. Love Tony, he is my driver but do not agree with this. Could not care less about Danica. She needs to earn her spot. Everyone needs to earn their spot

  10. I don't know about that. I see it as you said yesterday, it's a reward for running well the previous season. I think they should be able to do what they want to with them.
    Redbull is able to sell it's assets which include those points. Why can't baldwin use it to streagnthen his team?

  11. The Wood Brothers did the same thing for Trevor Bayne last year by acquiring the 19 team's points from RPM to guarantee he'd be locked into the 2011 Daytona 500.

    Everybody just glosses over that though.

  12. Anonymous12:28 PM

    I'm slapping the boards with my hockey stick Dave!

  13. Anyone that didn't see this coming the moment TBR signed Reutimann to 26 races just qualified for idot of the week. As soon as it happened I told my BF that I wouldn't be suprised to see Reutimann fill in for the races Danica wasn't racing.

    It's a win win situation for everyone. Danica is in the top 35. Reutimann willend up with better cars than he had at MWR. TBR gets extra engineering help from SHR/Hendricks and Zippy. They also probably got enough money to allow them to race two cars for the season.

    Want to whine about misuse of the top 35 rule? How about Stenhouse in the #6. He'll be in the race on someone elses work(Ragan). Or how about Sadler. He'll be in the race because of someone elses work too (Boyer).

  14. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Wow, an interesting lightning rod topic Dave. I love it.

    I've really enjoyed reading all the different and passionate perspectives from the listeners. They need to realize that in many ways, the provisional and top 35 rules packages were set up for them. So if they paid hard earned money to go to a race, they could more than likely be guaranteed to watch their favorite driver in the race. Until NASCAR makes a major rules shift, it will happen again in the future.

    The SHR/TBR deal helps both teams, but really helps to strengthen TBR for the future. Robert from Cinci.. bud I understand your emotions over this topic, but honestly, a driver or sponsor could care less about there being of a black cloud by making the race in this manner, especially in this difficult sponsor hunting climate. When I think back to last season, there wasn't really an issue when the Wood Bros and Petty Enterprises did the same exact thing and won the 500. In fact, I heard many people went on and on about the cool factor of the King and Glen Wood going to victory lane together.

    That being said, It's sure good conversation and debate which is why we have Sirius XM. So the fans can let loose with their voice on various topics....One of the greatest things to hit NASCAR in the past two decades.
    see you in Daytona...
    Matt Yocum

  15. Anonymous1:31 PM

    I feel certain that all teams owned by the commentors here would GLADLY get into this deal. If I provide equipment to my driver for the whole season and he/she gets into the top 35... those points are MINE. I can burn them to light my cigar or sell them to anyone.
    Anyone here would be lying if they say different.

  16. Anonymous3:03 PM

    I believe that getting rid of the top-35 rule isn't enough. We should also do away with provisionals - and yes, the champion's provisional, too. Make the drivers quality to race. If they're not one of the top 43 qualifiers, they don't race...period.

  17. Anonymous3:43 PM

    I'll be the voice of Dissent. Here's the situation from the owner's perspective: when you own, say, an NFL team, a NBA team, some other pro sports team, you don't have to worry about being on the schedule, and when the time comes to sell, the team is a palpable asset. You get money from your league, in the form of shared revenue from merchandising, TV, and so forth.

    When you own a NASCAR team, you own a garage, cars, and equipment, and that's all - no league or TV revenue (or not much); you get all your money from sponsors and merchandise, and winnings. Without the top 35 rule, the owners have no guarantee of being in the race, no matter how much you spend (though the odds are good, they're not guaranteed) - it's like being an NFL team but not being sure you'll be on the schedule. Your primary revenue sources - sponsors, winnings, merchandising - all depend on being in the races. And at the end of the season, saying your team WILL be in the race gives the team some value when/if you sell it. Otherwise, at the end of the season, all you have is cars and equipment, which a new owner can get elsewhere.

    Without some guarantee of value, most potential owners won't invest in teams, either buying existing ones or starting new ones. It is a problem starting a new team when you can't be sure you'll be in the race, especially when that race is the first one of the year, the biggest one of the year, and the only one with the two qualifying races versus qualifying by time on your own. Thus they allow the sale and shenanigans of point swaps. It's not a perfect system, but it's one that keeps people interested in investing in new teams and also opens up ways to allow raw new non-points teams to get in too.

    I would be in favor of a system that might compromise on this, like starting the Top-35 rule on the second race and leaving Daytona as an Open race (if you want to use golf terms), and then giving the best five non-35 teams finishing the Daytona 500 a reward for the next four races by guaranteeing them spots 36-40. Or something like that. I'm sure Dave can see some of the holes in this idea, but it's an off-the-cuff one subject to improvement.

    Mike N.
    Bedford, NH

  18. Anonymous4:36 PM

    Whatever happened to running fast enough to get into the race?

  19. In the line from An Officer and a Gentleman,"Go around sugar britches." Miss the drama the Duels would produce.

  20. Anonymous9:42 PM

    This point swap concerning danica is just to try to gain more female fans and males that only think with their "other " head. In 7 years of Indy, 1 win 3 poles and never higher than 5th in points. Let her prove herself! If the media talks her up the way they did with jpm ill be switching off the TV!!

  21. Anonymous3:58 PM

    One advantage of the top 35 rule is that it lets teams concentrate on race set-up, not on qualifying set-up. End result, better racing on the day.

    Two things I would change, one now, which is two qualifying runs for the non top 35, one either side of the runs by the top 35. And I'd let the results of the first set of runs stand if qualifying is later rained off.

    The other thing wouldn't work now as not enough teams, but I'd much prefer to see the non top 35 qualify through a qualifying race, so they are concentrating on race set up too.