Monday, March 11, 2013

Purse Changes Are Reducing "Start and Park"

Prior to the start of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, NASCAR took action to try and discourage so-called “start and park” drivers, who turn just a few laps each week before retiring to the garage with a (generally) bogus mechanical issue, cashing their purse check and moving on to the next week’s race.

In response to complaints from some track operators and many fans, NASCAR trimmed the payoff for positions 39 through 43 by $4,000 per position, as compared to last season. And while just three races are complete in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, it appears that revised payoff structure has dramatically reduced the number of “start and park” drivers in competition.
In last year’s Daytona 500, just one driver utilized a “start and park” strategy. Robby Gordon exited the race after 25 laps, claiming engine failure. Gordon’s effort was underfunded – he competed in only three races all season – and his withdrawal was widely accepted to be a “start and park.” Two other drivers -- David Ragan and Jimmie Johnson -- completed only one lap before being swept-up in a crash, and while both were unable to continue, neither of their withdrawals fell in the “start and park” category.
This season, Kevin Harvick and Joe Nemechek were credited with the final two spots in the Daytona 500 finishing order, but neither of them took the “start and park” route. Harvick suffered early crash damage and completed just 47 of 200 laps, while Nemechek was swept up in the same wreck and retired for good on lap 42.
In last year’s “Subway Fresh Fit 500” at Phoenix International Raceway, four drivers started and parked. Nemechek retired on lap 87, with Gordon (33 laps), Riggs (29 laps) and McDowell (eight laps) also making early withdrawals.
Two weeks ago at PIR, Scott Speed, Mike Bliss and Riggs claimed the final three spots in the finishing order. Only Speed and Bliss were “start and parkers,” however. Speed’s Leavine Family Racing Ford completed 88 circuits before retiring, while Bliss’ No. 19 Toyota completed 35 laps. Riggs’ XXXtreme Racing Ford suffered an early right-front tire failure and clouted the wall, ending his day just 19 laps in.
In 2012 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, three drivers appeared to utilize a “start and park” strategy; Josh Wise, Nemechek and J.J. Yeley. Wise’s day ended after 64 laps with a reported brake issue, Nemechek bailed out after 44 laps with the dreaded “vibration” and Yeley lasted just 39 laps before taking it to the house with a reported engine issue in his America Israel Racing Toyota. Driver Timmy Hill finished 42nd in Vegas that day, but crashed his Rick Ware Racing Ford on lap 42.
This season, two drivers appeared to be “start and park” racers in Las Vegas. Michael McDowell “start and parked” after just 21 laps in the Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 Ford, en route to 43rd place in the final rundown. Landon Cassill completed 66 laps in Joe Falk’s Chevrolet before going behind the wall and finishing 42nd.
All told, it appears that NASCAR’s attempt to reduce (or even eliminate) “start and park” drivers is producing the desired results. Instances of unnecessary early exits have dropped from 10 a year ago to just two so far in 2013, and two of the three races to date have been “start and park” free. While promoters are paying the same base purse as last season -- payout for the final four finishers has been reduced, with the money redistributed through the rest of the finishing order -- fans have had fewer early retirees on whom to focus their ire.


  1. Anonymous7:26 AM

    I don't believe they saved any money as it was repoted that the money was moved to positions higher in the finishing order. Or did I misunderstand?

  2. Schreib8:25 AM

    Thanks for the update Dave, I was so busy watching the great racing this year I hadn't noticed.....

  3. Anonymous9:52 AM

    thats great, but I worry the small of start and parkers this year is only becasue not many can get their hands on the new GEN 6 car.

    The only start and park operation i seen that actually is trying to build into a competitive team is TBR, and the Stremme organization. The rest should get the boot. I know the "keeping people employed" argument, but stealing is stealing. If you cant run an entire race after a year or 2 of start and parking, go the hell home and stay there

  4. Hey Dave, to perfectly honest, I must have missed that news about the purse reduction. I have noticed a reduction of the "back-marker" starters, though I didn't understand why. Now I know. My 2 pennies worth...I never payed any attention to the early retirees. I think it sucks that NASCAR did this. Tommy Baldwin springs to mind....just sayin'... TonkaElk

  5. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Phil Parsons is the worst offender of a start and park business model. Good equipment, great driver,and qualifies well . I was tickled to see Nascar make the purse changes just to stop this one bottom feeder. I am sorry for the other guys that were using it to build not as a business model.

  6. Anonymous11:53 AM

    It appears that without some of these start and park teams NASCAR would have a hard time filling the field. The cost to run a race is prohibitive. So do we run off those teams at the risk of having a NASCAR parade lap look like an Indy car race (other that the 500).

    Back in the day this issue was not as prevalent because the cost of racing was such that "family" teams could still be competitive if not for the win at least a mid-pack finish. The transformation from a regional sport to a world wide entertainment model has made it impossible for the "family" type operation to exist. Case and point would be the life of Michael Waltrip. In reading his book he talks about fielding a car while sleeping on Richard Petty's couch. Today, the Richard Petty's of the world, are not accessible to the Michael Waltrip's of the world, to have a couch to sleep on let alone race in the upper tier of NASCAR. Of course, if that Michael Waltrip's of todays world brings a multi-million dollar sponsor then he can have the couch and may be the guest room. Otherwise, you are on your own.

    That said, cheers to those that can work the system to keep their dream alive. Do you really think the racing barons, be it a France or a Smith really care that these teams exist. I say no. They are more concerned with the fact that their upper tier teams are losing out on a crumb or two. Yes, the greed is that much a part of the formula.

    Perhaps a better program would be to encourage these start and park teams to develop into legitimate competitors. Give them a path to success. Because truth be told, at some point the current funding model will fail. Corporate funding for racing has declined at an alarming rate and those companies have figured out that spending $15,000,000 to get the message out to a declining audience is not worth the investment. I firmly believe the loss in funding is the driving factor in "dealing" with these start and park teams. The big machine is down to feeding off the crumbs and heading for major reform or failure.

  7. Robert G.12:50 PM

    So one of two things:
    1) They always had the money and were just dropping early to save some of it.
    2) They don't have the money, but are trying to make a go of it.

    Dave, you always told people that you can't make someone spend money he doesn't have. So where are they getting the money to stay in the race longer? And this year, they are making even less as the people that are going at the end wouldn't have lasted any longer last year (IMHO).

    1. Robert, quite a few of the teams that were S&P teams last year are either funded (Swan Racing) or not showing up at all in 2013. Hence the 44 or 45 car entry lists.

  8. Anonymous2:33 PM

    the start and parks have not gone, right now they have had sponsors for the 1st 3 races, you will see more of it as the year goes by.NASCAR screwing the LITTLE guy

  9. If you eliminate start and park, you eliminate 43 car fields. That's fine with me, I would rather see a 36 car field where all 36 are trying to win... but then, points racing has eliminated that possibility.

    1. Doesn't winning pay the most points, most weeks?

    2. Anonymous10:37 PM

      Yes it does, but then again, with this new point system compared to the Latford system, winning does not give a "dramatic" effect in the points. Plus, everyone does "points racing" so they can just position themselves to get into the chase.

    3. 36 cars is not enough. A 43 car field is a quality field, not a 36-car field. As for points racing, the winner's take is nowhere near enough, and it's the same with most laps led - the points structure needs to load up point bonuses for the win and most laps led that it leaves no alternative but to go for the lead regardless of what lap it is.

  10. Anonymous3:01 PM

    There is a new car this year its taking awhile for teams to.get ready. There will be more cars later then there will be more start n parks.

  11. Anonymous3:16 PM

    IMHO, the goal which was set years ago, is to have 10 teams of 4 cars each. The elimination of the S&P's is just another step in that direction. The reason? Strictly financial. If you want to participate you have to buy into one of the mega teams. Just another way to achieve the same effect as franchising.
    Notice where the uproar about S&P's came from. It was not a grass roots uprising by the fans. Rather it was started and encouraged by those who had a vested interest in their demise.

  12. NASCAR is wrong. The solution to start and parks is to pay better purses so they can afford to race and also to put in spending restrictions for teams.

    1. How would you enforce team spending restrictions?

  13. Anonymous12:55 PM

    S&P never really bothered me aside from NASCAR being the big time professional racing that it is. I think most people's ire comes from seeing some teams abusing the system. It's kind of like how the top 35 seemed to work against it's own purpose.
    I've never had a chance to give my two cents on this subject-which has been ever present for years so here goes.

    I say NASCAR should've left the purse alone and initiated a team development program. Just as young drivers are to prove their skills on the track to NASCAR in order to race on some if not all tracks, I propose they implement a similar regiment for young budding teams. If you think you're big time then prove it. Trucks, Nationwide, then Cup.

    I drag race as a hobby and my upfront opinion is that racing is a rich man's sport. It's that way all the way down to the lowest levels. We race in the class we can pull off. NOT top fuel, funny cars or pro stocks. Could we? Maybe once or twice if that! I am of the opinion that If you can't afford to race in the cup series go race in the nationwide or truck series. No offense to the teams that "don't have the money to race", but if you're looking for sympathy from me you're not going to find it. Just as it is with drivers, you have to work you're way up to the top you don't just start there. It isn't Nascar's responsibility to help turn your one car S&P operation into a full time cup team. If you intend to be a cup team I believe you should climb the ladder. Upon NASCAR's approval you move up one step at a time. If you can't afford to do that either, perhaps you can run a dirt car over here at my local bull ring. As far as the field having to be "full," I believe the requirement for that magic 43 starting positions is ridiculous. If any series should be starting 43 it should be the trucks. You want to fail? fail there. Don't come to fail in the biggest motorsports arena the planet has ever seen.

    Am I an accountant? No. Do i know the finances of professional teams? No. I am a fan. If this is an issue we are forced to have an opinion on, there you have it. If what I have proposed is ridiculous then so be it.


  14. Anonymous7:43 PM

    What I don't like is the broadcasters continuing to show the start and parkers in the ticker at the top of the screen.