Thursday, February 07, 2013

COMMENTARY: It's Time To Get Back To What Matters

In recent weeks, NASCAR fans have allowed themselves to be duped into caring about things that really don’t matter.

Instead of rooting for their favorite driver, debating the merits of the new Gen-6 race car or pondering the ability of Carl Edwards or Jeff Gordon to return to title contention, we have been led down the primrose path; told that the most important teams in the sport are the ones that finish in the back of the pack after utilizing the bedeviled strategy known as “Start and Park.”

"Start and Park should not be a part of what we do,” said Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith recently, for the 5,000th time. “I think this is derogatory for our sport."

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage Smith lent his voice to the choir, saying, "People are stealing in broad daylight in front of 150,000 fans in the grandstands and millions of people watching at home."

And somehow, inexplicably, we allowed ourselves to care.
There are serious issues in need of attention right now. In-person attendance and television viewership are down. Dodge withdrew from competition at the end of last season, joining Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac on the list of automakers to leave the sport in recent years. The economy is in shambles and sponsorship is more difficult than ever to come by. The sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has no backing for 11 of this year’s 36 point-counting races.
And yet, somehow, our panties are in a collective knot over who finished last in the most recent race.
We ignore our champion, Brad Keselowski, in favor of a driver who ran 16 laps en route to 43rd place in the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway; a driver whose name we cannot seem to remember.
Instead of praising the most improved team of 2012, Michael Waltrip Racing, we focus instead on a couple of teams who were either unable to improve, or had no desire to do so.
Only in NASCAR are fans so willing to be led astray, and only in NASCAR are we so obsessed with the have-nots.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs were the worst teams in the National Football League this season; winning just two of their 16 games, respectively. ESPN SportsCenter didn’t talk about them, and fans focused their time and energy on better, more relevant clubs.  Judging from the attendance figures, even fans in Jacksonville and Kansas City considered the Jags and Chiefs to be unworthy of their attention.
The Chicago Cubs continued to toil in baseball obscurity last season, posting a lowly 61-101 record. Only the Houston Astros were worse, at 55-107. Fans of the Cubbies have grown accustomed to futility. The hometown team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908, so once July rolls around, sports fans in the Windy City automatically begin looking forward to football season.
The Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames are off to abysmal starts in this lockout-shortened National Hockey League season, winning just two of their games to date. Nobody’s saying much about them because, well… they suck.
The Charlotte Bobcats are once again the weak sisters of the NBA, after losing 37 of their first 48 games. I live in the Charlotte area, and I couldn’t give away a Bobcats ticket if it was wrapped in a $50 bill. People just don’t care.
Only in NASCAR do we spend so much of our time talking about teams that achieve so little.
Only in NASCAR does losing 100% of your games make you worthy of attention, discussion and debate.
It’s time for a change in focus. It’s time to get back to what matters.


  1. I could not agree more Dave. No one wants to see cars circling around the track 10 miles an hour off the pace. People want to see drivers in contention for the win.

  2. kim northrup12:44 PM


  3. Anonymous12:52 PM

    I agree with most of your post however, where do you come up with some of your illustroius descriptions? ", somehow, our panties are in a collective knot over who finished last in the most recent race."

  4. Cold in Canada1:05 PM

    As always well said and to the point.I didn't hear anything years ago when Rick Hendrick had Jimmy Johson start and park just so Jeff Gordon could win a championship.

  5. AGREEing that the maybe too much attention has been paid to the story .. BUT ... i also think it is an

    ISSUE - should the last 5 teams be paid pretty much the same money?,IMO no, if there's something more at stake($), maybe we will see a bit of Racing on the track for the extra $ versus a race to the garage

    - plus any PRESS/publicity that these team get out of this, likely isnt going to hurt them either!

    1. Yes the last five teams should be paid money enough that it allows them to keep racing. The issue is the sport has no cost controls and the purses are not keeping up.

  6. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Cold in Canada, you are so right. I remember Childress doing the same for Dale Sr. They all have done it. I just feel bad for the teams that are going to lose out. It's not like they are getting rich doing this.

  7. Anonymous2:41 PM

    I am so glad that someone (Cold in Canada) has brought up that point of Hendrick and yes Childress getting cars in the field and calculating how many laps they needed to run to assure their driver a championship..and they did not hide the fact of doing just that back then. i dont recall hearing Mr Smith complain back then. And yes while it does seem to bring down the competition a bit they do it for a reason such as Tommy Baldwin racing without those years of start and park he would not be where he is today.

  8. Could not agree more God Father

  9. Charlie Trost2:58 PM

    Amen, Mr. Moody. Funny how Dodge leaves SC and the Charger is the closest one to production car (350ci ish v8, rw drive). The others nothing in common. They stull in NNW with the Challenger?

  10. Anonymous7:00 PM

    Can't agree more Dave, i find my-self switching to another channel alot. 90 percent of what happens is what we should be discussing I cant even keep track with all the news for new deals with drivers and teams which is positive. Just over a week away for the greatest show and we are worried about the 40th place guy.
    By the way congrats man on your award a month ago..well deserved brother!
    Mike from Ontario

  11. Of course when Mr. Smith utters something it's going to get some media time (kinda comes with the territory of having half the Cup schedule).

    I don’t know that start-n-parkers are on the minds of racing fans though. There certainly are a lot of issues facing NASCAR, but if those aren’t getting media attention I really don’t think it’s the fans fault. I mean how many track owners (or high ranking NASCAR officials) are readily going to talk about the lack of fans attending their events?

    In my experience with racing promoters, most would rather have a root canal without Novocain, rather than admit people don’t like their product and are finding better things to do.

    Here is another problem with NASCAR that gets almost nothing for media coverage:
    Quick, name the last few of Sprint Cup ROY (no googling allowed!!!)

  12. Anonymous8:42 PM

    you were correct on another point the CAPS do suck...especially against the Pittsburgh Penquins...

  13. TL RACING9:11 PM

    I think we are missing the point here. We can no longer say then “these are 43 of the best drivers in the world racing here today.” In reality this is not the case, what we have had is 33-36 of the best drivers with a legitimate chance to win. We cannot compare the NFL , MLB or NHL to NASCAR when it comes to their last place teams Dave and here is why Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs don’t show up each week, make a few plays and walk of the field. The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t head to the locker room after the 1st period. They play the entire game! If they did what NASCAR teams do, show up with no intention of playing or competing then perhaps there “loyal fans” would be calling radio shows and making a deal out of it. The reality is those fans think there NFL, NHL teams still have that chance to win at the end of the game, and in some cases they do! If there was a team in any of those leagues whose sole purpose was to loose, there would be an inquiry and legal action taken!

    Fans are concerned with start and parks for a number of reasons, one is when a team who wants to race, let’s say for example Robby Gordon’s team in years past misses a race because a team like Joe Nemechek wants to field a second car for 5 laps, it upsets people. Robby has a souvenir trailer in the front of the grand stands where he is sitting on Saturday morning, signing die cast, selling t-shirts etc to “his loyal fans” then can not compete because a start in park has out qualified him to simply collect the money and go home. SPEED energy drink is not seen on TV, no one buys his product and he doesn’t race for the rest of the season. But guess what either is the 2nd Joe Nemechek car or ever had the intention too.

    Yes it’s fair that the fastest car qualifies for the race, however we can no longer say in the year 2013 on the radio or on TV, when our driver wins the race that “he just beat the most talented 43 NASCAR drivers in North America”. Why? Because it’s not the case, if you are 25 years old, have drove no more than 4 times in your life in a NASCAR race, but you have a family sponsor that will put their name on a race car, even if a proven Nationwide, Camping World Truck, or Sprint Cup champion, or past winner sits on the side line with no ride. Unfortunately that kid will start the race, he’s not the best, he just has the most money. Is there than the best 43 drivers in the world on that track being beat. No sir, this dollar driver sport had simply filled the race with 43 capable drivers, not the best ones.
    Fans go to the track to cheer their favorite race car driver, if that driver is on his way back to Concord who wanted to actually compete because a team who only ever had a qualifying trim race car, who barely practiced beats him by .004 of a second then people will rant.

    Now at least with the purse changing perhaps teams will want their drivers to race for that 36 place spot, if an extra 18-20,000 isn’t a good enough reason then I am not sure what is. I know the guy behind the wheel certainly doesn’t want to park it and watch the race from the hauler.

    Good on NASCAR and Smith for trying to put some sort of resistance on these teas. Like a group of my colleagues told me last weekend who mentioned this idea to me, “what’s stopping us from buying a car at an auction, a used motor, a few sets of tires ,throw it in his Haulmark trailer, tow it to some tracks in my motorhome , hire a driver (there’s hundreds) and start attempting to qualify for some races, run 1 lap, then park it and watch the rest of the race on top of the trailer” My response, time, energy and a few hundred thousand dollars, but let me think about it, we go to most of the races anyway.

    1. The argument against start and parks is foolish because it's the wrong issue. Arguing that a team like Robby Gordon - a start and park outfit - is somehow denied exposure because some other start and parks make the field is ludicrous.

      The issue is the sport has made it too expensive for start and parks to RACE. The start and parks are NOT the problem; the sport not paying better purses and cutting team spending is the problem.

      NASCAR needs to pay more and start reigning in team spending so that these teams have it worth their while to race.

  14. "Rick Hendrick had Jimmy Johson [sic]start and park just so Jeff Gordon could win a championship."
    And what season was that? Jimmie Johnson ran 3 Cup races in 2001, the last year that Gordon won a championship. He crashed in his first race at Charlotte, finished 267 of 267 laps at Homestead, and 322 of 325 laps at Atlanta for a 29th place finish. Doesn't sound much like starting and parking to me. The next season, 2002, Johnson finished fifth in points with more laps completed than the champ, Tony Stewart. Johnson was 2nd in points the next two years - in fact the only time he ever finished out of the top five in points was in 2011. If that was starting and parking just think how many championships he'd have if he hadn't?
    I'm not saying none of the major teams have done it, I just think it's a bit of a stretch to say Five-Time did.