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The fastest 43 cars will race in the Daytona 500…right?

By admin | February 9, 2010

By Richard Allen

There will be forty-three cars to take the green flag for Sunday’s Daytona 500. To a newcomer to this sport it would seem logical to assume that the fastest forty-three cars in qualifying would be the ones to take that green flag. However, that is not how it works.

First of all, the Daytona 500 has a qualifying system unlike any other race. Instead of simply lining the cars up and having them make individual runs around the track, drivers are supposed race their way into this event. Two 150-mile qualifying races are run on Thursday before the big race with the intention of setting the field, but not really.

The two qualifying races do determine where each driver aside from the fastest two qualifiers will start, but there are some who know they will be in the main event before the qualifiers are ever even contested.

NASCAR offers the top-35 teams in the owners’ point standings a guarantee of starting the next race. The top-35 from the previous season are assured of making the first five races of the next season. Since the Daytona 500 is the first race of the year, there are 35 teams who know they will compete in that race no matter how they do in qualifying. In other words, there are only eight spots truly ‘open’ for the biggest race of the year.

As confusing as all of that may sound, recent years have seen an additional twist brought into the equation. The trend of late, and especially this year, has been for teams to buyout or merge with other teams which then sets off a flurry of points swapping, or rearranging.

Just before crews left for Florida it was announced that Yates Racing owner, Doug Yates, had been made a minority partner in a team called Front Row Motorsports which will field three cars in the Daytona 500. Two of those three cars did not finish in the top-35 of last year’s standings and were thus not guaranteed a starting spot for the first five races.

Bringing Yates in as a minority partner allows Front Row to use the points earned by two of his cars from last year. Yates’ cars do not need their points from last year because his cars are using the points earned by the teams of Richard Petty Motorsports after his company merged with that organization.

Thoroughly confused yet? Here’s another twist. A new team called Latitude 43 Motorsports was formed over winter. That team entered into an agreement with Roush Fenway Racing that will allow its car #26 to use the points earned by RFR’s car of the same number last year. RFR was forced by NASCAR to reduce its team count from five to four after 2009 so the new team was able to swoop in and assure itself a starting spot in the sport’s biggest event without having even existed last year.

Richard Childress Racing and Furniture Row Racing entered into a similar deal as those mentioned previously which will allow Furniture Row to use points earned by an RCR car last year that will not be competing this year.

What does all of this mean? The bottom line is that a system set up to allow owners to have some equity by virtue of guaranteed starting spots has been abused and misused which has in turn cheapened the sport and the sport’s biggest event.

Instead of earning a starting spot, teams that did poorly last year or for that matter did not even exist are allowed to buy their way into the field. I guess that in an era of corporate bailouts this is the new American way. If it can’t be earned it can be bought.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

10 Responses to “The fastest 43 cars will race in the Daytona 500…right?”

  1. Jim Maddalon Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 6:01 am

    When, if ever will we go back to real racing. Where the best teams with the most talent and passion, maybe not in the “best” equipment qualify for, race to win and sometimes surprise the “megamoney” teams? Never if Nascar lets teams buy their way in and allows people to “get away” with “start and park”. If it’s not really broke race it the best you can to the checkered flag or don’t show up at all.
    Just my opinion.

  2. Lydia Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I might be one of the few..but I don’t mind the “top 35 rule”…BUT I do believe they should change it to the “top 25″ rule. I do believe the teams and their sponsors should be rewarded for their commitment, dollars, and achievements…and being in the “top 25″ is part of that reward. Being 25 adds 10 more “open” spots for drivers trying to make their way “in” and challenges the already top “25″ to race hard to maintain their positions. Buying your way into a position…well not keen on that. I guess the teams selling their positions have a right. when a team breaks up..where is their “worth”? Old race cars… if lucky they may get 50 cents on the dollar..maybe? Equipment? If they are lucky enough..a shop to sell? IF a position is sold the buying team should AT LEAST be a team that has been together for minimum of a year..and have raced ALL the races (or attempted) in the previous season. Brand new teams need not apply. Start and park…I understand the concept…but it bites that it takes starting positions away from teams who really intended on racing the entire race. Maybe there should be a “limit” on how many races a season you can “start and park”. Say three during a season…that would give the “start and park” teams a chance to build up their coffers, ramp up their teams and race entire races…or get out. Just my “two cents”.

  3. Richard Allen Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    If they are going to allow the swapping they should just go ahead and call it what it is…franchising. But then, the car owners would have a stake in NASCAR itself and the folks in Daytona Beach aren’t going to allow that.

    I don’t mind 25 or 35 cars having a guarantee as long as they are the ones who earned it. Allowing some to simply buy a spot in the Daytona 500 cheapens the event.

  4. Ole Putz Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Tech question;
    Are the Gatorade cars impounded after the race? What changes are allowed between the Gatorades and the 500?

    Surely, nobody runs a 125, then turns around and runs the 500 without changing gears/engines/chassis setup/fluids/ ….

  5. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 11:00 am

    If there is to be guaranteed starting spots,I think it should be the number it used to be when they qualified on Fridays and then Saturdays. I think it was 21 or 24 something like that where you were locked in the first day and had to requalify the next day or stand on your time. 35 is definitely way too many and makes qualifying meaningless.

  6. Lydia Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Well…with “things” being what they are…it maybe time NASCAR loosens up the old purse strings…I hear them crying poor pitiful…but it’s the owners who are putting their butts on the line in the form of the money it is taking them to keep cars on the track. (Plus insult on injury they have to buy “certain” parts from NASCAR itself! HA!) Franchising works in other sports..why not NASCAR? Well my take is like yours.. franchising gives the owners alot more say in the sport..and I don’t think NASCAR is willing to give up ANYTHING! I mean this is the corporation who took away 10% of the purses…to “help” the track owners…has anyone checked lately to tally up exactly how many tracks are owned by those ruling NASCAR? AND how much money they stand to “save”? As far as “buying points”…its a shame….I don’t care for it..but the owners have to get something for their investment..I’m surprised that NASCAR doesn’t claim a 10% “finders fee” in these transactions! Top 25…I think it’s a good number and I can live with it. If you can’t stay in the top 25 (hello Junior!) you deserve to be sweating to get in the race each week.

  7. Richard Allen Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 11:33 am

    This is not an impound race.

    After the 150s the teams can make an engine change but once that change has been made that’s the engine the team has to go with. A second change causes driver to have start at the rear.

  8. midasmicah Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    One thing, unfortunately, I took from the shootout. A car in the race ended up the way he always does. Start and Park. I don’t think I have to say who it was because he does this best. Why he was even in the race is beyond me. I wouldn’t be taking about Mr. Cope, would I? As far as the top 43 cars making the field, it rarely happens. The only problem I have with that is that Mr. Cope usually takes a spot he doesn’t deserve because he has no intention of going more then 10 laps anyway. Cudos to Scott Riggs for giving the middle finger to this kind of “racing”. I do like some of the rule changes and am actually optimistic that nas$car is listening to it’s older fan base. I think the loss of fans both on tv and at the track woke them up. As in baseball’s spring training, the sky is blue and the sea is green.

  9. Jim Allan Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I don’t care what anyone thinks about this but I THINK IT SUCKS. The top 35 should never have been started in the first place. Buying your way in is out to lunch. Lets see, can we blame Emperor Brian, that’s a good place to start. Just when I think I might have a reason to maybe start watching at least some of the races, all of this comes to light, and, well, why bother.

  10. bertus Says:
    February 11th, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Top 25 locked in would be best solution - that should equate to winners circle (15) and another 10 teams. Nascar should also stop making money off the teams: their money is in (a) television and (b) the fans , whether via tracks or merchandising. More teams at the track will ultimately lead to more money in the NASCAR bank accounts