It has become a trend in recent seasons for small and underfunded teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to utilize the start-and-park. This act is when a team qualifies for the race but then only runs a few laps before parking the car for the rest of the race and collects the prize money for running the race. In the 2012 season there were upwards of seven to eight cars doing this per race out of a 43-car field.
Earlier this week on Tuesday NASCAR made a change to try to deter teams from starting and parking. Positions 39 through 43 will have a declining amount of prize money given for those positions by an amount of $4,000. For example, 39th will receive $4,000 less than 38th, 40th $4,000 less than 39th and so on to 43rd.
The money that NASCAR is taking out of the bottom of the field will be distributed throughout the remainder of the field and the total purse for the 2013 season is expected to be higher than in 2012.
Will the difference of $4,000 make a difference and make the start-and-park teams race longer to try to win more money? It really isn't the right fix to the problem if starting and parking is even a problem to begin with. Teams do it to get a footing in the sport. Without having major sponsorship dollars some teams can't afford to run a full race with the cost of fielding the car and having a pit crew.
Do some teams take advantage of the situation for the pay out they get, sure they do. Front Row Motorsports admitted that in 2012 they start and parked the No. 26 car of Josh Wise in most of the races so they could help finance their two full time entires for David Ragan and David Gilliland. Is that necessarily wrong? It isn't what is making the racing bad that's for sure.
More so than the redistribution of the prize money away from the start-and-park teams, the new Generation 6 car should help with producing a more exciting and competitive atmosphere on the track. It wasn't five to eight cars that decided to park that made the racing bad the last few seasons.
NASCAR has also gotten rid of the Top 35 rule and this season and will use a provisional system that will make it important for the tail of the field cars to stay ahead of each other in the points so that they can get in over the next driver on a provisional if they are not fast enough in qualifying. It could make for some interesting strategy by these start-and-park teams.
The Nationwide Series is cutting their field to 40 cars instead of 43 this season. Maybe the Sprint Cup Series will have to do the same if they don't want start-and-park cars.
In no way will the start-and-park phenomenon be gone in 2013 but it may be handled a little differently by the teams that do it because of the few minor tweaks that NASCAR has made.
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