By admin | February 11, 2009
By Richard Allen
In the midst of economic hard times what could have possibly made for a better story than a small, upstart team making the biggest race of the year while a heavily funded, powerhouse team left the speedway early? The under dog somehow finding a way to win one for the oppressed common man against the jet setting big spenders would fit in so perfectly with the times of today.
However, that story is not really going to have a chance to play out in the two Gatorade Duel races to be run on Thursday.
The sport’s power teams have, with the blessing of NASCAR, bought up the points positions of teams that last year finished in the Top 35 but this year have faded away.
Here are some examples:
The #77 of Penske Racing South “merged” with Bill Davis Racing. The points earned last year by Dave Blaney in the #22 car were shifted over to #77 which will secure driver Sam Hornish into the Daytona 500 and the following four races. This, despite the fact that Hornish and the #77 car ran all of last season and were unable to make the Top 35 on their own merits.
The #33 of Richard Childress Racing for driver Clint Bowyer has somehow acquired the points that at one time belonged to the #01 car of Dale Earnhardt, Inc./Ginn Racing. Bowyer drove #07 last year for RCR and finished well within the Top 35. However, Casey Mears is now driving that car and will reap the benefits of Bowyer’s labor. The #01 team is essentially defunct after the DEI- Ganassi Racing merger. The #33 car now has those points and is assured into the Daytona 500 despite the fact that this team did not even exist last year.
The #34 of Front Row Motorsports, who has entered into a “partnership” with Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing, will be awarded the owner points achieved by the #15 DEI car from 2008. This insures John Andretti a place in the Daytona 500. Beyond Daytona, no one seems quite sure how the partnership will work out. In other words, after this car runs the biggest race of the year it is unlikely it will be seen very often after that.
These three examples are just a few of the strange point swaps that have been allowed to take place this off season. Michael Waltrip Racing and Yates Racing are among other teams to have made somewhat similar moves.
It is refreshing to see the Wood Brothers assured of a spot in the Daytona 500. Bill Elliott’s 5th place qualifying run this past Sunday was fast enough to gain that guarantee for this legendary team who was not certain of a place in the race they helped make famous.
It is difficult to refer to the team partially owned by Tony Stewart as an under dog, so their winning a spot in the race is not exactly a heart warming story.
It would, however, have made for a heart warming story had a true under dog team like that owned by Tommy Baldwin made the race, displacing one of the major teams. But alas, that will not be the case. The super powers have used their super powers(money) to gain entrance into the race.
I am not against teams such as Penske, RCR or EGR. I am not against the Top 35 rule, although I believe the number would be best set at 25-30. I am against the wrangling that has been allowed to take place to abuse the rule. If a team is to be locked into the biggest race of the year they should have earned it, not bought it.
NASCAR has been running around for three weeks telling anyone who would listen they have all these new teams in place. Yet, they have set up a system and allowed maneuvering that will assure the failure of these new teams.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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