I got the idea for this post from our faithful reader Kenny. He was asking me about something else, but the topic of start-and-park came up. First off Kenny, start-and-park teams don’t hire pit crews. NASCAR doesn’t necessarily mandate that you need seven over-the-wall guys to be in the race, and since these teams know they aren’t going the distance they don’t spend the money on a crew.
Anyways, on to the world of start-and-park teams. A start-and-park team is one who shows up to the race, maybe practices a few laps, qualifies, runs some laps in the race, and parks for the night. The whole idea is that they’ll finish in the back but collect the money for being in the race. They don’t spend a lot on equipment, tires, crews, and everything else in order to make a profit from the winnings. We’ve seen this in all three series, but lately its only been in the Nationwide and Truck Series because there are too many good teams in the Cup Series right now.
This weekend at Bristol, we saw no less then six teams start the Nationwide race only to park their cars a short time later. Justin Hobgood, running for MSRP Motorsports, ran a single lap, finished 43rd in the race and collected $20,216. Hobgood’s #91 car has appeared in 22 races this season and has earned $428,599 in winnings. Not bad for only completing 299 laps all season.
The usual start-and-park teams include MSRP Motorsports, Johnny Davis Motorsports, Jay Robinson Racing (except the #28), Derrike Cope/Rick Markle Racing, and sometimes Morgan Shepherd. You won’t hear a lot about these teams because of their role in the series.
These teams are the result of the low car counts at Nationwide and Truck races. Because of the economy and sponsorship issues, there may only be 35 teams showing up to a Nationwide race who have the intention of running the distance. These start-and-park teams can show up, knowing they can make the field, and collect the winnings. They have discovered a bit of a loophole in the system, and it allows some guys to still be at the track each weekend and make a decent living.
I believe to some extent that NASCAR lets these teams exist because they will fill the field. It looks bad for the sport if there aren’t 43 cars in the show, and these teams fill that void. I’m not a start-and-park hater, and I certainly understand why they are there. What bugs me about these teams though, is that in some instances they take up spots in the field when there are cars on the entry list who want to run the race, but might just be a tick slow. I’d rather see a slower car run the whole race, then a car that’s a bit faster park after 4 laps. It is called “racing” after all, not “parking.”
So what is your opinion of start-and-parkers? Does it bother you? Do you think NASCAR should exclude teams that don’t intend on running the whole race?