NASCAR announced today that it would be altering the payment system for finishing positions 39-43 in all 2013 races. Every position back in the field will have a steeper penalty than last year; with a 39th place run earning a team $1,000 less than it did last year, whereas a last place run will set a team back $17,000 versus 2012.
The incentive here is obvious. Regardless of a start-and-park teams existence, both NASCAR and track owners alike want every team to make a maximum attempt at race distance, regardless of the feasibility in the current economy. More cars in theory will always mean more fans, and more money. More money means more sponsors, and more sponsors in turn will lead to more attention, thus providing the opportunity for new fans to feed into the cycle of top-tier racing.
But this is not a perfect world, and seldom is the money available for massive purses leaving car owners salivating. In this realistic world of sponsorship desolation which we live in, the opportunity for a team to develop is just not available. Yet, car owners hope, push, and persevere, and much like NASCAR itself, they hope to make it out the economic downturn of the early 21st century in better condition than they came in.
Race cars don’t run on gas, they run on money. The popular ideology that is echoed at test and tunes throughout the country continues to hold true. NASCAR is not immune, NASCAR is not exempt. Teams constantly strive to meet a bottom line, and the reason for that is the same as in every sport. At the end of the day, passions, and the people that fuel the passion, do it for victory and the sweet high of competition that is part of achieving success at the highest level.
These team owners striving for a purse of any sort are looking to start small, but their passion for the sport is similar to anybody who has ever been there, including Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick. These owners work with nothing, and for now, they work for nothing. Teams with tool chests for pit boxes and a crew of engineers and mechanics ten strong at the maximum, scratching for every hundredth knowing it may mean the difference between a paycheck and the entire operation collapsing upon itself.
Similarly, for a substantial amount of people, this is the only opportunity available in a NASCAR where teams are consolidating operations constantly. Young crew men hungry to advance in the cutthroat world or willing to ride the wave of success with their current team to the top, either way by not respecting start-and-parks NASCAR is essentially turning their backs on these aspirations.
All clamoring of dreams and aspirations aside this is a realistic problem that can balloon shortly. NASCAR has essentially drawn its line in the sand, firmly siding with track owners such as Bruton Smith and Eddie Gossage who have been vocal in their displeasure for the purses assigned to start-and-park teams.
Fans have to be realistic. There has never been a NASCAR with 43 competitive cars who can win on any given Sunday. That is a pipe dream. But have there been 43 cars to run a full race distance, to adorn their cars with stickers of sponsors interested in the long run? That is fact, not fallacy. That is the nature of this wonderful sport. Everybody, regardless of their current financial situation wants to win.
So, with that in mind, and the continuing epidemic of start-and-park cars continuing in 2013, will fans stand by the underdogs, the unknowns, and the untested? More importantly, will NASCAR stand by every team equally, regardless of the money, regardless of the track owners, but out of the idea that racing is a special thing, something where one group can achieve greatness, and one race can create a legacy.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486