By admin | December 7, 2010
By Richard Allen
Typically a NASCAR Sprint Cup field is made up of 43 cars for each race. However, in 2011 that may not always be true.
The rules set by NASCAR guarantee the top-35, as determined by points acquired by the team owner, to start in Sprint Cup races. Because the top-35 could be greatly skewed during the running of the first five races of any season, the top-35 owners from the previous season are guaranteed entry into those first five events in the following year. That said, there should be no problem filling the fields for the earliest events on the 2011 schedule.
However, once those first five races have been completed, it looks as if there could be some difficulty in finding enough cars to fill out the starting grid for some races.
The well known website, Jayski.com, maintains a team chart which shows the driver, manufacturer, owner, crew chief, sponsors and engine builders for every car number that might possibly compete in NASCAR. The 2011 version of that chart (http://jayski.com/pages/2011teams.htm ) is littered with question marks as there are a number of teams lacking sponsorship and other necessities for the upcoming season.
In going through the list on Jayskiâ€™s page, I was able to count only thirty teams that I would label as â€˜solidâ€™ entrants in every race in 2011. That is to say there are thirty car numbers with no significant question marks somewhere along that teamâ€™s line of the page.
Some notable losses from 2010 include Richard Petty Motorsports downsizing from four cars to two. That number will, however, be offset by the acquisition of Paul Menard and his sponsor by Richard Childress Racing. Team Penske, which fielded three full time rides in 2010, looks to only have two full time locks for the coming season. And most notably in terms of sheer numbers, Front Row Motorsports does not appear to have any definite plans beyond the first five races(if that) of the season for any of its three teams according to the Jayski chart.
The total of thirty reached in doing this count does not include teams that, if they do race, will be start and park entrants for most or all races.
Considering current rumors that indicate NASCAR is considering expanding the field of participants in its Chase for the Championship playoff to fifteen for next season, half of those running a full time schedule will qualify to race for the Sprint Cup title.
After the first five races in 2011, when the guarantees of last season expire, there may well be relatively few cars actually on track and racing for wins. NASCAR has in recent years seen a significant drop off in television ratings and event attendance. Has it come to pass that these factors have dissuaded potential sponsors from involvement in the sport or is this a temporary bump in the road that will be corrected once the economy improves?
As is becoming the case with each passing season, the next year will be a pivotal one for the future of NASCAR racing. Without enough viable teams, the sport could find itself withering into second class status in terms of financial worthiness for its backers and teams.
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