Wednesday, January 23, 2013

COMMENTARY: Smith Long On Complaints, Short On Solutions

Bruton Smith wants start-and-park eliminated
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith said yesterday that he wants to abolish start-and-park teams on the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

The ever-outspoken track owner called the practice “derogatory toward our sport,” adding, “start-and-park should not be a part of what we do. It certainly isn't adding anything to our sport, and it certainly takes away (from it)."
Eddie Gossage, president of Smith’s Texas Motor Speedway, said his track paid approximately $17 million in purse money to Sprint Cup Series start-and-park teams last season; a situation he wants to see changed. A longtime critic of start-and-park drivers, Gossage ignited a firestorm of controversy in April of 2010 by accusing start-and-parkers of stealing from his speedway.
"They are going to steal a half a million dollars of our money here tomorrow,” said Gossage. “I want real racers, but they're not racing. They add nothing to the show, not one darn thing. They're stealing.”
Gossage said he wrote two-page letter to NASCAR president Mike Helton late last year, asking the sanctioning body to take immediate steps to abolish the practice. Helton, he said, has not responded, perhaps because he realizes that start-and-park teams are nothing new in the sport.
In the past, drivers who failed to complete the entire distance on race day were called “field fillers.” Nobody seemed to resent their presence, at least until March of 2004 when Jeff Gordon tangled with field filler (now Rockingham Speedway owner) Andy Hillenburg while lapping him in the early going of an event at Darlington Raceway. Hillenburg had qualified 20 mph off the pole speed that day and had no intention of completing the entire race. In the aftermath of the crash, he was roundly criticized for failing to get off the track before being lapped; a situation that led directly to the modern-day practice of running just a few circuits before retiring from the event.
Bruton Smith and Eddie Gossage are decent, honorable men whose efforts have improved our sport tremendously. Their insight is valuable, but on this specific topic, they are most certainly wrong. Start-and-parkers are not thieves. They are simply businessmen, doing what is necessary to improve both their teams and their position in the sport.
In 1984, Rick Hendrick was one race away from shutting down his fledgling NASCAR team after just eight races, before sponsorship was found to lay the groundwork for what is now the most successful operation in the history of the sport. 
Car owner Junior Johnson began the 1975 season without a sponsor for driver Cale Yarborough, and questions swirled about the continued viability of his team. Holly Farms signed-on after five races were complete, however, and the Johnson/Yarborough tandem went on to become one of the sport’s most dominant operations, winning the Winston Cup championship in 1976, 1977 and 1978.
In modern-day NASCAR, no team owner starts at the top of the competitive ladder. It takes millions of dollars and years of effort to become a title contender, and Smith’s insistence on exterminating newer, weaker operations before they have a chance to grow is shortsighted, in the extreme.
For all his chest-beating lamentation about start-and-parkers, it is doubtful that Smith can recall who finished last in either of his two races at Charlotte Motor Speedway last season. It’s also doubtful that Smith – or any of the fans who bought tickets to SMI facilities in 2012 – spent any appreciable time watching the 38th through 43rd-place drivers. Their attention -- and rightly so -- was on the front of the pack, where the action is.
If eliminating start-and-park is the goal, perhaps it’s time for Smith to augment his incessant criticism with some actual solutions. Trimming the Sprint Cup field from 43 to 36 cars – as Gossage recently suggested -- will not eliminate start-and-park, since low-buck drivers will still have the option of qualifying for the shortened race day field, then pulling out early. All it will do is force already struggling teams out of business, finishing a process begun by the foundering economy and exacerbated by a plummeting sponsor pool.
Smith could have offered a specific plan for phasing out start-and-park yesterday. The SMI Chairman has made a cottage industry out of telling NASCAR how it ought to run its business, but in this instance, he elected to pass the buck, calling upon reporters to pressure NASCAR for a solution.
“I'm going to try my best -- and I hope you'll join me -- to see if NASCAR can do something about this,” said Smith to the assembled media. It's up to NASCAR to do this, not me. But if it was up to me, I guarantee we'd figure it out.”
We’re waiting, Bruton, whenever you’re ready.


  1. Anonymous5:18 PM

    Sometimes, late at night, after I'm done praying for friends and family who are not well, I weep silently for all of Bruton's lost money.

  2. Anonymous5:19 PM

    Sometimes the start-and-park entries allow drivers who are locals to the track the chance to race "on the big stage". I think this is what the sport was built on....

  3. Anonymous7:06 PM

    Just another reason for me to not spend my hard earned money at any of Bruton's tracks. He always finds fault and criticizes everyone else, even at Kentucky Speedway when the fault was clearly his.

  4. Anonymous7:19 PM

    Am i wrong in thinking i heard that there were provisions in the TV contracts the there were to be 43 cars start an event,or monetary or other contact penaltys would occur? Thank you for your time

  5. Anonymous7:21 PM

    How about smith and gossage foot the bill for the tires and fuel for the car for the week end, put the event stickers on as sponser. They want a better show give these under funded teams a chance to race.

  6. allisong8:40 PM

    I don't agree with Bruton on many things, but in this case I think he's spot on. I think the practice smacks of fraud, actually. I also think the fact that NASCAR condones this is one of the reasons the sport will never be viewed as being on par with the NFL,MLB, etc. How can it be a "real" sport when you have teams only "pretending" to compete?

    1. Anonymous8:06 PM

      Nascar will never be as big as any of the other major league sports? When was the last time that the drivers or teams of Nascar left the fans wondering if there was going to be a season in any year like the "professional" stick & ball players &/or owners do every few years? How long did it take just this year for the NHL to decide what they were going to do? The teams & drivers of Nascar know that without the fans, there is no sport

  7. Tom Heintz8:44 PM

    I like what Bruton has done as far as backing a more entertaining event for the fan. I don't feel, however, that any publicity is good publicity for him.

    I'm extremely happy that the are obviously listening to Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio but I think they're only hearing the first part of the calls about start and parks. What I've heard at the end of most of those calls are the majority of those callers acknowledging that those teams do have a right to be here and that the solution is much larger than the problem.

    I believe that rather than picking the portions of the greatest channel (in my opinion) on satellite radio to suit their arguments, Mssrs. Smith & Gossage would well to remember what I call the "Moody Rule". "If you have a complaint, have a solution, otherwise you're just bitching."

    My complaint is that the start & park teams receive too much criticism. My solutions are we should be glad that they are still trying when they could just fold up and not put up with the headache. We should be thankful that they are employing many who would not be working in this sport that must be loved to stay in, this is no place for a 50 percenter. We need only look to Tommy Baldwin, along with your great examples above, to see what dedication these teams have and that when they can they will crank it up a notch.

    Congratulations on your awards Dave, they are most deserved!

  8. You need to think back to beginnings of Talledega. A track that was going to be boycotted by the big boys of Nascar because they wanted Big Bill France to fix some things. They left him high and dry and out of that dust rose some big names for the future. One being Richard Childress. Had he not had a chance to have raced on that Sunday we might not have had Richard Childress Racing. Don't look at every struggling racer or team owner and accuse them of stealing. They are doing what is their passion and it's not as easy as some people think that it is. We should be thankful especially in the North Carolina area that so many people are employed by the racing industry.

  9. Robert G.10:15 PM

    I can see how Bruton can be upset about paying money to someone who has no intention on finishing a race. But I also see how they can be good for the sport. Dave and Angie have given us multiple examples of teams that have progressed from S&P to full timers.
    And lots of people have tried, but I have never heard a solution to eliminate them without having the effect of catching a full timer that has one or two bad races in a row.

  10. Lessee here - Bruton and Eddie are promoters. As long as there are butts in the seats, and if their antics bring some more in, we can look forward to more of this in the future.

  11. Anonymous10:16 PM

    So I'm curious how Mr Gossage would describe the way his boss treated the 20K fans who bought tickets to KY Speedway in 2011 but never got in due to Bruton Smiths lack of parking then were not given the option of getting a refund.
    Many of those 20k considered that an act of stealing

    Robert Y

  12. Anonymous8:22 AM

    If you change the field from 43 to 36, the prize pool is going to be the same, just divided differently among the teams. Are you then going to grip about paying the last place teams for "going too slow?" How about the teams involved in wrecks? If you don't finish the race loggin all the laps, no money. Flat tires? Sorry no bacon for you. NASCAR has a format and rules for a reason, know what it is? It works. Leave the teams trying to climb the ladder alone, or better yet, help them out with a few extra bucks, so that they can have their dream too. Let's race.

  13. Anonymous8:37 AM

    I don't quite get all the backlash for the start and parkers. The names associated with teams of start and parkers are racers and it takes a ton of money to field a team just for one weekend. That's why not everyone can do it and that's why I have no problems with it. If these guys had funding, they would run the full distance. Maybe Bruton should foot the tire bill or fund a pit crew for these guys and they might go the distance. One might argue that Brutons prices for tickets, camping etc at his race tracks are stealing OUR money. Boo Hoo Bruton Boo Hoo.

  14. allisong11:46 AM

    Everyone wants to use Tommy Baldwin as an example, well OK, here's how I feel about his operation. Yes, he's a great guy and a real racer, but if his balance sheet doesn't support a legitimate attempt to compete in Cup, then he shouldn't race in that series. He would make a damn fine NNS or NCWTS team owner and could probably compete for wins there. To borrow one of Moody's favorite phrases, no one is putting a gun to his head saying "It's CUP or NOTHING".

    Moody, you use the example of Hendrick being one race away from closing before finding success, but you fail to note that Rick went to that next race in Martinsville in order to COMPETE, not to make a cash grab. And the fact that he did so is what turned their fortunes around.

    I think part of the effort to enact change has to involve attitude. Nothing ticks me off more than reading a press release mentioning the fact that a team plans to S&P at a given event. The practice may go back many years, but at least then they had the good sense to be ashamed of it.

  15. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Not sure I get how cutting the field to 36 cars will hurt the sport, especially if the payoff stays the same and is spread over 36 starters. Wouldn't that additional purse money actually help the teams that are interested in racing the full event? My personal opinion is that the economic situation of the past few years created an opportunity for some who have no intention of doing anything more than grabbing a payday because they know without them there wouldn't even be a 43 car field. Buy someone else's used up iron, stick in a has-been or never-will-be driver and head home before the traffic jam with 60 - 90K in your pocket just becuase NASCAR is hell bent on putting 43 cars on the track.If you cut the field to 36, most of the S&P's would still likely load up after qualifying and if they did actually qualify, they'd potentially earn enough money to make it economically viable to run the entire race. I don't see how you gain experience as a driver running 10 laps a week. The other benefit I see is that the limited sponsors that are avialable get more bang for their buck with cars that run the entire race and by thinning the herd down to 36 wouldn't at least some of the sponsor money that goes to the S&P's today be reallocated to the remaining 36? There is no big thrill for me in seeing 43 cars start the race if within 20 laps 7 of them are parked anyway. And calling them the best 43 drivers in the world - really?

  16. Anonymous2:07 PM

    isnt smith the one who ruined bristol?

  17. Anonymous2:50 PM

    A viable solution to minimize the apparent 'money grab' going on by the 'Start and Parkers' would be to implment a policy that bases their total purse money awarded by the percentage of the race laps that they completed - regardless of finishing position.
    Then institute a companion policy that requires the team to compete for a minimum percentage of the laps of a race(like 50%)to get the full amount of their finishing position. If they complete less than 50% for reasons other than a crashed car or obviously blown engine, you then prorate the total winnings amount downward.
    That will then stop the lame excuse reasons for leaving the race like 'Handling', 'Vibration', 'Loose screw behind the wheel', etc.

    1. So if I break an engine, but it's not "obvious," I lose 50% of my earned purse?

    2. Ron Conley3:26 PM

      I think losing an engine would be quite obvious.....especially if the Nascar official asked you to start it.
      I don't think the 50% rule would work.....but the per lap percentage might. If you run the race to 100%, you get 100% of the purse money that you earned. A formula for the remaining percentages would have to be worked out. But I will ask one thing, If you agreed on someone to do a job for you by showing up, and they decided to pack it in with only 10% of the job finished, do you have to pay him of the 100% of the previously negotiated price?
      It's really no secret who is running start and park operations on any given weekend. Heck, most of them advertise their intentions to do so. And some of the excuses they use.....handling. Handling issues are what make racing teams work all day to make it better and improve. If every team that had handling issues immediately parked their cars and went home, the race wouldn't have a single car left on the track within 15 minutes. Suspension.....adjust the darned thing, it might just help your "handling" problems.
      In my opinion, 100% effort equals 100% compensation.

  18. allisong3:16 PM

    Moody, if I call my congressman and tell him I think the economy needs fixing and I want social security to still be around for my grandchildren, am I required to also hand him the solution? Isn't that his job to come up with it? It's NASCAR's job to come up with a solution to this ridiculous practice, and with enough pressure from fans, track owners and others, perhaps they will finally begin to get serious about it.

    1. Unfortunately, Allisong, not everyone agrees with you that start-and-park is a threat to NASCAR and our democratic way of life. In fact, some of us don't think it's an issue, at all.

      It's not required that you have an answer to go along with your complaint. But it sure is more productive. We're not debating Social Security here. It's not nearly that complicated.

    2. Anonymous9:20 PM

      Dave you talk about respect practice what you preach we all have a opinion just some of us don't agree with u

    3. You are certainly welcome to your opinion, "Anonymous," and agreeing with me has never been a requirement.

  19. Anonymous6:34 PM

    Maybe they need to change the purse for the start & parks. Maybe Nascar needs to have them stay in for a quarter of the laps. And then again, have Bruton and Eddie pay for a portion of their tires. But then again, we wouldn't have drivers like Brad or Jimmy, if it wasn't for smaller funded teams.

  20. not for a second try to defend start and parkers. You'll lose that every single time, they need to be gotten rid of.

    1. Schreib10:39 AM

      Please tell me you're not meaning Dave and anyone else who have LOGICALLY explained WHY start and parkers are here. I listen to the NASCAR channel everyday, and sigh everytime someone thinks they have the solution, and they need to "be gotten rid of". Really? Start and parkers have been around as long as NASCAR has, it's just become apparent people need something to bitch about with no solution whatsoever or reasoning why.Dave has explained the reasoning and logic behind it every time, citing examples. Still confused? I know Gossage and Smith do not help the situation any.Cant we just shut up and go racing????

  21. allisong8:46 PM

    I don't see it so much as a threat as an embarrassment. As a "business model", which is what its supporters would like us to view it as, it's more like a pyramid scheme. Bernie Madoff held himself out to be an investor when there was no actual investing going on. S&P teams purport to be race teams, when there is no actual racing going on.

    I know full well others don't share my view on this, and I may be in the minority, but I'm encouraged by Smith's and Gossage's remarks. I hope others will finally speak out as well. In sports, there used to be such a thing as sportsmanship and competitive ethics. Maybe we can try to return to that.

  22. Geosez10:10 AM

    Bruton Smith is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.