By admin | February 20, 2013
By Richard Allen
A number of factors can be used to discern the health of a particular form of motorsports. Grandstand attendance, television ratings, the number of new sponsors being brought into the sport and a number of other indicators can serve to measure the well being of any form of racing. But perhaps the most accurate means of accessing the sport’s health is the car count at each race.
This year, the Daytona 500 has drawn a field of 45 cars vying for 43 starting spots in ‘The Great American Race’. In 2012, this race drew 49 entrants. A total of 57 cars were entered in 2005 while 54 cars posted qualifying speeds on pole day in 2010.
While this year’s number may not seem like a major drop off from last season’s, it is a bit of a concern. If the sport’s biggest and most prestigious event barely draws enough cars to fill the field, what does that indicate for the remainder of the schedule?
Consider, however, that a major part of the problem has been a scarcity of parts for the new Gen-6 car that NASCAR is debuting for the Sprint Cup division in 2013. Even major teams have complained that the pieces needed to assemble the new race car, which are produced only by certain suppliers, were slow to be delivered.
A change in the rules regarding Start and Park teams is possibly keeping some teams that might otherwise serve as “field fillers” from entering races. A payout structure that will not allow teams to simply start a race then drive to the garage area after only a few laps and still make a profit could be discouraging some.
Even with these factors, however, it must be considered that the drop offs in car counts detailed above began before the Gen-6 hit the track this year and before the change in start and park payouts. There are other reasons for declines in car counts. Sprint Cup racing is a very expensive proposition and companies would almost certainly be less willing to hand over the necessary $10- $25 million often required to get their logo on the hood of a NASCAR racer when they take into account the fact that attendance and television ratings have dropped significantly from the highs of a decade ago.
While parts are harder to come by because of the new car and the economy is playing a role in certain areas of the sport, there would be more teams attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 if the sport were healthy enough to support them. If this race can barely fill out a 43 car field, will there be others that don’t meet the standard number of starters?
My unofficial count of cars and drivers listed on the Jayski.com website showed a total of 26 teams that I would consider rock solid and certain to enter every race. I then counted another 14 teams that I consider very likely, but not absolutely certain, to enter all the races. That adds up to 40 full-time teams which means NASCAR will have to depend on at least three unaccounted for entrants to show up each week.
It seems as if there is a chance, for whatever reason, of a few short fields in 2013.
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