Before I really get into this post, I wanted to share a quote from Michael McDowell that he posted tonight on his Twitter page (@Mc_Driver). McDowell has been driving the #55 for Prism Motorsports this season, and is one of the start-and-park crowd’s usual suspects. There was some discussion about the reasons often given for why these teams fail to finish, which are usually bogus, and McDowell had a great response.
“They get mad at me when I tell them ‘I was going down the straight away and the funding fell off.’”
It was a bluntly honest comment from a good kid who is just trying to make it in racing, and I wanted to share. Keep fighting McD…
Over the last few seasons, starting and parking has become a regular part of the sport. Fewer teams and less available sponsorship dollars have contributed to the phenomenon. Lately though, it seems that the number of teams doing it has increased in the Nationwide and Truck Series. I believe it is a frightening trend, as most of these are victims of sponsorship losses.
Instead of trashing these teams though, I wanted to hopefully open up your eyes about the practice. While there are certainly those teams out there who are doing it for nothing but the profit, for many, this isn’t exactly the case.
Lets picture for a moment that you are a NASCAR car owner. Your team runs mid pack each week, but it’s a solid operation and it’s respectable. Then something unforeseen happens and you lose your sponsorship. Maybe you only had a partial deal, or maybe an agreement fell through. And now, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t find a replacement. What do you do? You really only have two choices: shut down completely because of lack of funding; or trim down your staff and begin starting and parking until something comes along.
This exact scenario is what many are now starting to face. Instead of putting entire shops of people out of work, owners are using the start-and-park startegy to weather the storm and keep the doors open until they can put money together. It buys the owners more time to find sponsorship, and it keeps the employees’ paychecks coming on time. Knowing that, it’s hard to really blame them for it.
Something else to consider is how this affects these owners and teams. Remember that people get involved in racing because they want to compete. They want to go out each weekend and try and be the best. Starting and parking though, goes against the very idea of competition. Pulling out of a race after only a few laps with a perfectly good race car is a very difficult thing to do. Add on top of that the fact that most fans and NASCAR itself severely disapprove of the practice, and you begin to see how demoralizing it can be.
In a perfect world, we’d have 43+ fully funded teams showing up to the track each weekend to race the full distance. But we don’t live in a perfect world. In reality, the world is a very tough place to try and race. I know for many of you, the simple mention of the phrase “start-and-park” gets your blood boiling. Trust me, I understand. It makes me sick to my stomach to watch these cars pull into the garage each weekend after a few laps.
Do me a favor though? Don’t forget that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and tough choices need to be made. Not all of the start and parkers are the enemy.