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Start and Park fiasco was bound to happen

By admin | March 20, 2011

By Richard Allen


There is no doubt, whether contractually obligated or not, that NASCAR likes having full fields of cars in their Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races. As a result, a number of so called ‘start and park’ cars have briefly participated in virtually every event in those divisions for the last couple of seasons. Just as their name indicates, these cars start the race, run a few laps and then park for the rest of the day.

After a number of critical comments about the practice from fans and various media outlets, NASCAR began to more closely monitor the activities of these teams. Cars that ran only a few laps began to be confiscated and thoroughly inspected. However, the practice has continued, particularly in the Nationwide Series, where as many as six to eight cars may start and park in a typical event.

On Saturday in the Nationwide race at the Bristol Motor Speedway the issue came to a head when driver Jennifer Jo Cobb refused to start the Scott’s EZ Seed 300 after the owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports told her she would have to go to the garage area shortly after the drop of the green flag. Rick Russell was forced to hurriedly find a replacement driver after Cobb’s last minute decision.

“I have made a commitment to my sponsors, my fans and NASCAR that I’m not a start and park driver,” Cobb said in a television interview shortly after the start of the race. “I am really serious about this and I have to really work hard to prove to people that I’m serious about this.

“The conversation was never had with me until 10 minutes before the race started that I was to start and park. I had already bought tires to run this race, so you can imagine it was a blow to both of my principles and my finances.”

In a separate interview, Russell explained that he had incurred significant expenses after his car was crashed in Las Vegas and simply could not afford to run a full race in Bristol. He explained that he had discussed the matter with Cobb well before the timeframe put forth by her in the TV interview.

From that point a war of words ensued on the social network websites twitter and Facebook between the two sides. Scores of fans posted their support for Cobb on the two sites.

The ultimate issue here is not whether Cobb or Russell is right. There are actually multiple issues here.

First, the practice of starting and parking for the benefit of NASCAR being able to boast of full fields has been allowed to go on too long. Despite what some may say, start and park teams are not benefiting anyone. They are not bettering the sport nor are they bettering themselves. Probably, none of these teams are ever going to advance beyond their current state. The more likely fate for a start and park team is like that of 2nd Chance Motorsports than that of a successful race team.

A field of 36 cars intending to go the distance is preferable to a field of 43 that will have seven dropping off before the first round of pit stops.

Second, drivers and owners should actually be prepared before reaching the top levels of the sport. There are too many drivers in NASCAR’s top divisions who are there because they have someone willing to pay for them to be there rather than having earned their way. A driver should bring qualifications to the garage area other than a couple of sets of tires or a rebuilt engine. And along with these less than qualified drivers are less than qualified teams. In every race there seems to always be a couple if not more teams who do not even have a pit crew or equipment.

I am not saying that I only want teams like Hendrick or Gibbs. There are a number of teams such as Robby Gordon’s or Front Row who are not necessarily contenders but at least intend to run full races. It would seem as though self respect would win out in more instances than has so far been the case.

I can’t believe there hasn’t been a Jennifer Jo Cobb vs. 2nd Chance Motorsports type scenario to have played out already. It will be interesting to see how this one ends up and what impact it has on the future of start and park.

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18 Responses to “Start and Park fiasco was bound to happen”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Same thing with Phil Parsons, you don’t think maybe he rents a car from his old buddy, M.W. do you? Pretty easy money as long as you get bye with it.

  2. Russ Edwards Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 5:51 am

    Great article. However, who is the real culprit here? (And I admit not having the answer)

    Is it the car owner of a start and park who is doing it simply to make money? Same as owning a 7-11?

    Is it Nascar, who wants and needs (despite their attempts to make us believe otherwise) full fields? BTW folks Its not their money the S&P’s get anyway its the race sponsor.

    Is it the megateams ? They were able to eliminate the influx of any real competition by forcing it to the Top 35 rule.

    Or maybe this is just the residue from Nascar’s boom years. When it was cool and expanding. Now its contracting and the wannabee’s dont have any option.

    But this isnt the last of it.

  3. Will Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 6:45 am

    how many times did gc spencer s&p in his career?

  4. Ronnie Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Start and parkers are just a disgrace to this sport! They are NASCAR’s version of panhandlers, and they ought to be run out of the tracks on a rail!!
    And by the way zhills fan, MW tried to qualify a Phil Parsons car in the past. It’s just their way to make a quick buck, with Nemechek and that crowd!

  5. Ronnie Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 7:28 am

    It’s so funny…the last 4 place panhandlers blamed their being out on “brakes”….LOL
    They don’t run enough laps to even get their freaking brakes hot!
    I’m A Jenn “GO” Cobb fan!! That lady ROCKS!

  6. Len Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 9:01 am

    If each week there were 43 fully funded, technically and mechanically capable teams out there, they’d be on the race track. S & P’s are merely a symptom. This sport is in dire need of new , competent leadership….

  7. James Walker Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I think start and park is a necessary evil for owners who are genuinely trying to build their teams;however, i have no respect for Phil Parsons who is blatantelyout to make money with no intention of ever racing. I also think it is a clonflict of interest for media people to own teams, As for Jennifer Jo Cobb , I respect her taking a stand and walking away, i would love to see more diversity in nascar but this lady is in no way ready to compete at this level, go back to trucks and get the seat time you need, she is a danger to herself and other drivers,

  8. Sue Rarick Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:25 am

    It should be pointed out the JJC ran the entire truck series last year as an owner/driver and finished 17th in points. She also ran her own truck to a 6th place finish at this years Daytona race. As I understood it this deal with Russell was to be for only 5 races and at that point she was going to be running her own team in Nationwide. And she was also going to be supplying her own crew. And it was a joint agreement that they would use an outside engine supplier for Vegas (she paid 1/2 –$15.000).
    And maybe JJC would have had a better team if she had been born with a silver spoon like Menard or Gordon (his dad was a very rich GM exec)

  9. Neal Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Let’s be honest. The only reason Paul Menard is around today is because his Dad sponsors him. BUT, just because he brings sponsorship with him, it can’t be denied that he hung around long enough to get halfway descent. It’s not just an RCR car, after all someone has to drive it across the finish line.

    As to Jennifer Jo, she might not be ready for the Nationwide level of racing, but you can’t help but admire the fact that she was willing to suffer bad publicity to stand for her principles and intentions.

    She may never be good enough to drive Cup, which would be saying something with the quality of some of the boys we’ve seen in Cup over the last decade, but I like the fact that she takes it seriously and is giving it her best effort.

    Rick Russell needs to get out of the business, however. If a $16,000.00 check almost broke him, he’ll never have enough money to make a go of it. Get out now, before it costs you your house, Rick. Oh, and quit being a jerk and return the ladies seat.

  10. tyler west Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    She needs to stay in trucks until she gets more experience. Plus, this team is never going to be a competitive team. It’s a shame that there are teams showing up just to make the field and park. I have no respect for that. That is not real racing. it is called a race for a reason, if teams have no intentions of doing that then they should not be allowed to qualify. She did the right thing by walking away.

  11. Russ Edwards Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Look at the way the purse is split up. The last place guy makes 80k and runs 35 laps (more or less). Bill Elliot runs 493 laps and makes 85k! So who’s the dummy?

    BTW if the start and park crowd didn’t exist, Nascar would invent it. They’ve gotta have the fields.

    Only if they allow the megateams to have more than 4 cars will the start and parks go away. That change will be made the same day that they change the top 35 rule so that megateams cars all make the field.

  12. Mike Evans Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    What would happen if after 4 green flag laps all 43 cars came in the pits with a so-called problem. What would NASCAR say. Would they pay out according to where they were at that point. Thats what they are doing now, just on a smaller scale.

  13. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Rich, I am really, really upset that these Start and Parks suck the fun out of racing and I feel angry to the point that I want REAL Owners who ARE REAL about financing teams, not Steve Parks.

  14. Duane Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I have an answer to the start and park problem, all you fans that hate it buy the teams some tires and engine rebuilds and then they can race. Or better yet ask Na$car why they charge teams $23500 per car to get them certified to race and the teams have to buy $250000 kits from NA$CAR to build the current cars. Why do teams pay $3500 inspection fees per car to race and bring out a back up and pay it again. Also wreck your car and clip it, it goes back for another $23500 certification fee. Thank God any of these teams show up beside the big teams, they are truly pushing a rock up hill. Yes blame the little teams instead of asking how the France family are all worth billions of dollars. Also why the drivers have to carry there own primary health insurance, meaning have a wreck they pay first then maybe NA$CAR/FRance family. Enjoy your $5 water at the track the France’s own the concessions at there tracks also. So enjoy the racing and down with the little man.

  15. Brian Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Joe Nemechek should NOT be lumped together with the likes of Phil Parsons and 2CR. Joe is a Busch series champion, and multiple Winston Cup race winner. If it weren’t for bottom feeding $tart and Parks, I’m willing to bet Joe wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in now. He’s been relegated to S&Ping because he’s lost so much money trying to out-qualify these losers who just park after a handful of laps. More often than not, Joe runs the full race, at least in NNS.

    Its a sad state of affairs though. Something needs to be done. NASCAR shouldn’t even allow a team to start the race if they don’t have a pit crew, something that occurs very often, although you never hear about it. Currently, they are able to start the race, but get black-flagged, and end up parking the car, earning money and owner points. In my opinion, a team should not be able to even start their engine unless they have a full pit crew in place; if they don’t comply, they should earn 0 points and 0 dollars. Period.

  16. Kevin Says:
    March 22nd, 2011 at 10:37 am

    S&P should be prohibited.
    S&P does nothing for the sport.
    S&P adds nothing to the show.
    S&P does not give drivers ‘exposure’.
    S&P robs purse $ from the drivers that do put the effort in and finish.

    Fix: Finish the race to get paid. If you don’t finish, you don’t get paid.
    Result: Only competitive cars are on the track and the fringe players don’t make it. If you can’t afford Cup, race N’wide, can’t afford N’wide race NCWTS, can’t afford the trucks, run ARCA, Bush East/West whatever….

    Bonus: I’m pretty sure it is easier to sell sponsorship for a car that has a history of finishing races than it is to sell sponsorship for a car that has a history of parking due to ‘mechanical issues’ after 10 laps every race…. I’m just sayin…

    Final thought: Good on JJC for refusing to S&P. There was ZERO benefit to her to hit the track only to park the car. Good on her to stand for her beliefs and not fold for an easy paycheck.

  17. Tommy Says:
    March 22nd, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Most drivers worth a darn know that S&P is a career killer. Kudos to JJC for not going down that road. Since she’s obviously putting her money where her mouth is by bringing resources to the table, she deserves to have a team owner that will respect her intention to compete.

    S&P is a symptom of a serious problem in Nascar. The lack of available sponsors (due to Nascar and top teams hoarding most of them) has reduced the number of serious racers. There needs to be change in the purse structure for Nascar so that teams that finish benefit financially from their effort and success. The fact that a team that finishes 42nd earns just a few thousand less than a Top 25 finisher is ludicrous.

    FYI, you should have seen the 46 team in Phoenix. They would pull off the track and sit in the garage until a caution came out. They then would go back on track under yellow, complete enough laps to pass the cars that just wrecked and then go back into the garage and wait for another yellow. One of my guests (a big player in the corporate world) noticed it and asked me what they were doing. I told him and he said back to me, “And they let that go on?” It’s embarrassing for all of us who work with teams and people who do this the right way and show up to compete every week.

  18. 18bigfan20 Says:
    April 17th, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Nascar should have limited teams to two cars years ago. We wouldn’t have start and parks now.