by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.February 4, 2011 7:38 am UTC 2 Comments
The first five races of the season teams will be locked in to starting spots based on their 2010 owner points. But when race number six rolls around and 2011 owners points determine who is locked in to the field will the new points system.
The new system has the potential to have more teams with the same points totals. Any time you tighten the point differential between finishing positions as NASCAR did, the more probable ties become.
How will go about breaking these ties if they occur for that thirty-fifth and final lock in spot? That is what NASCAR has yet to address. Will it be laps run, qualifying positions, qualifying attempts or will they use some other criteria to fill the top 35?
These are just a few more questions NASCAR needs to address; and quickly before there can be cries of prejudice toward one team or another. If they wait too long to make public how they will address this situation you know fans will believe another conspiracy theory is afoot. Especially if one of the favored teams is on the cusp of not being locked in.
photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW
by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.February 2, 2010 1:36 am UTC 3 Comments
Looking at the way the past couple of offseasons (and seasons themselves) have gone, it’s about time that we put this whole “top 35 in owners’ points automatically qualify for the race” thing to rest.
Despite NASCAR implementing rules designed to prevent owners’ points transfers, top 35 starting positions have been an abstract commodity for the past couple of years. Selling points from one team to another – the exact sort of thing that NASCAR has tried to block – has been circumvented by the new teams allowing the old owners in question to remain on the entry list.
Last year’s offseason was the worst. Think that Bobby Ginn had anything to do with Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 car last year? Does Theresa Earnhardt have anything to do with Front Row Motorsports? How about the former Bill Davis Racing – did Sam Hornish Jr. have more of a claim to that team’s owners’ points than Tommy Baldwin Racing, which had its old crew chief and a handful of its crew members?
That’s not, however, to say that this year hasn’t also been pretty bad. The latest transfer of points from one team to another is between Furniture Row Racing and Richard Childress Racing, which will allow the No. 78 to take the points from RCR’s fourth car. Childress will become an owner of the team, but FRR will continue to use Hendrick engines.
There’s also the creation of Latitude 43 Motorsports, established when Roush Fenway Racing had to sell off its fifth team to get under NASCAR’s team cap (a different embarrassing issue entirely). Because of the team cap, NASCAR allowed RFR to sell off its owners’ points and equipment to a new owner without having to remain on board with the new operation.
Confused? Angry? You’re not alone.
Plenty of teams have attempted to switch points within their organization, too, in order to give drivers better starting positions in case of rainouts. Last year, Juan Montoya and Aric Almirola of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing switched points early in the year. Yates Racing also messed around with its teams, to the benefit of Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard and the detriment of Travis Kvapil. This year, Richard Petty Motorsports may shift the points from its No. 44 last year to follow A.J. Allmendinger to the No. 43.
It’s funny that NASCAR allows this now, when two years ago, they refused to allow Michael Waltrip Racing to transfer David Reutimann’s points from the No. 00 to his new car, the No. 44.
The top 35 rule was originally designed to protect the fully-funded teams and their sponsors, guaranteeing them passage into the field, while start-and-park teams would have to earn their way in. On the surface, it’s a nice thought, as it gives the fans a better chance at watching a solid race. It doesn’t matter how fast a start-and-park car can run, nobody wants to see it pull back into the garage after ten laps.
But in 2007, when the Sprint Cup Series had 49 full-time, solidly-funded teams, and start-and-parkers were endangered species, the rule remained in place, and plenty of teams bit the bullet. Many of their sponsors either left their old teams for partial-season deals with the sport’s heavyweights, or left the sport entirely.
Combine that with the oft-cited economic woes that America currently faces, and we have about 39 full-time teams this year, fighting for 35 guaranteed spots and 43 spots on any given weekend.
Four of those teams will face a great disadvantage all season. Because they will have to focus far more on qualifying than the top 35 teams, who will have all weekend to work on race setups, their cars will not be as strong during the races themselves, leading to inevitably low finishes. As the mediocre and poor finishes pile up, they will fall further back from the top 35, as Kevin Buckler’s No. 71 car did last year, keeping them down for 2011.
Let’s face it: the old system – fastest cars make the field, provisionals for the slowest cars with the most owners’ points, DNQ’s for the cars that run out of provisionals – is still the best way of doing things. If Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are slow one weekend, brutally slow, they shouldn’t be racing. The fastest cars ought to be the ones racing, right?
With everybody having to devise two setups on any given weekend, it improves the chances of making the race for the cars running limited schedules. Michael Waltrip, Max Papis, and Bill Elliott won’t have to put everything into qualifying the way they do under the top 35 rules. They would be doing the same work, on the same things, as everybody else.
And if these start-and-park cars pull off qualifying miracles – winning the pole, for example – they can capitalize by running the decals of the cars that failed to qualify, or attracting some other sponsors to help them run the whole race. Nobody wants to start-and-park when they’re qualifying in the top five.
One more thing: no more of this owners’ points transferring crap. You get the points that your team earned last year. It’s only fair. If you stop guaranteeing the top 35 into the race, it doesn’t even matter all that much anyway – everybody gets the same amount of provisionals.
I know my cries will likely fall upon deaf ears in the NASCAR compound, but it’s worth a shot. The top 35 rule is a nice thought, but its practice only causes problems when more than 35 cars are fully funded and running the entire schedule. It’s time we go back to the old system and forget this one, once and for all.
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.March 27, 2009 8:26 am UTC 4 Comments
It’s time that NASCAR takes a look at the sport and re-evaluates what is needed to move forward.
Let me say up front; this post is NOT about what is wrong with NASCAR. Unprecedented growth throughout the 80′s, 90′s and 00′s was able to mask some of NASCAR’s mis-steps. The scheduling of races, as they criss-cross the nation with no rationale needs to be addressed. The unevenness of the penalty system needs to be looked at. Restructuring of race weekends to make them more team and fan friendly needs work.
The top 35 rule needs to be re-evaluated and there are a host of other items that are simmering in the background. Television contracts will be up for renewal soon again and need attention. NASCAR is still, by far, the most popular form of racing in the United States. There is no doubt about that, but with a reunited open wheel series, NASCAR needs to solidify their place in the racing world.
This country was in love with the Indy car series and it could be again with the right management. That is a topic for another time. The point is that NASCAR could be threatened as the number one racing series in this country as quickly as fans fell in love with it. Fans are a fickle lot and their passions can be re-directed in a virtual blink of the eye.
All of the problems with NASCAR cannot be credited to Brian France, Mike Helton or any of the other minions directly, but it is time for the France family to give up much of their power. The Family has not given up power voluntarily–ever. The driver revolt at Talladega during its inaugural race there was dealt with swiftly by founder Big Bill France. Times have changed and the man in charge has as well. Brian does not command the respect that his granddad or father did–not even close.
That is why it is time for NASCAR, and Brian specifically, to elect an autonomous commissioner. A commissioner elected by drivers, car owners, track owners and the France family. I believe the France family should be given two votes and each of the other factions one vote each to elect this commissioner. Then like any well run businesses, he needs to be left to run that business in the best interest of ALL involved.
The commish, and his staff, again with factions representing drivers, owners (both) and family would be able to restructure a sport that needs to gain back some of its credibility and make decisions that will position itself to maintain itself as the most popular televised sport this side of the NFL.
Knowing that this process could take years to accomplish, I think I have the perfect man for the job. Starting to lobby for him now, while he is still driving, will help get people used to the idea. My nominee is Jeff Burton. Few in the garage have as much respect from all involved as Burton. When he “holds court” in the garage, media, fans, owners and drivers listen.
Burton has that ability to cut to the crux of a situation and give informed–well thought out solutions. Other sports have historically gone the lawyer route to be their commissioners, but racing is a different animal. A former driver, one that has spoken the truth and offers reasonable and timely solutions would gain immediate credibility from all involved.
It is time for Brian to start working on his exit strategy; a strategy that he has said needs to be addressed. After all, he is the one who said he wasn’t going to make this NASCAR thing a lifes work.
Jeff Burton for NASCAR commish.
photo credit:Icon Sports Media
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowFebruary 27, 2009 7:19 pm UTC 2 Comments
Two weeks into the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and some of the stars of the sport may start getting a little tight around the collar if they don’t start putting some points on the board. NASCAR’s Top 35 qualifying rule looms like a vulture at a roadkill competition, over teams that struggle early.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman is 33rd, Joe Gibb’s Racing’s Joey Logano sits 37th. And right on the bubble in 35th is NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr has taken more heat in the last week than in his whole career up to now. Darrell Waltrip seemed to think Junior needed support and even had a ready made bit prepared during the race, that defended Junior and his commitment to racing. Is Dale Earnhardt Jr overrated?
Charlie: The easy answer this week, for many in the NASCAR internet community has been – “Hell yes!” But it isn’t that simple. It depends on who is doing the rating and how high the rater, rated Junior.
Personally, I always had him as no better than the third most talented driver at Hendrick Motorsports. I’d say he is perfroming at just about that level. But based upon conversations I’ve listened to the past few days, many are falling off the bandwagon of the son of a legend. In the past, we’ve had prominent ON PIT ROW guests like Jeff Hammond, Larry McReynolds and Lee Spencer vehemently defend Junior’s ability. But they may no longer be preaching to the choir.
Bruce: There’s a lot of emotion involved when it comes to the son of the Intimidator and people want him to live up to the reputation that they’ve stuck on the pedestal of fandom. No one wants to see him fail, yet, I can’t argue the case you make Charlie.
When I see Jr, I’d like him to do well, but I think he will only do well when a few others may falter or dare I say it, when it rains!
I think the grief we’re seeing from the first 2 weeks are from those more impatient. Sure, he’s had a crap few weeks. Could it possibly be due to lack of practice time at the tracks themselves, or is it one of those seasons already that is just going to be crap luck. How many times have we watched a fan favorite just have a bad set of races from dumb luck like tires, engine parts or wrecks that just keep catching them in their noise?
I’m not sure what kind of year Jr is having yet, because frankly, it’s too early to tell, but right now, there are clouds building on the horizon and like I always say, time will tell!!
That’s what we think. What do you say? Leave us your opinions in the comment section of this post. The head over to Bruce’s blog where Digger is the topic du jour.
Now with Digger seeming to get more air time, I am forced to suffer through these bits of cartoon FOX is shoving down our throats. Why? But what has me wondering is if FOX is worried about their ratings?
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media, Inc
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.February 27, 2009 12:10 pm UTC No Comments
Once the guaranteed entrants finish jockeying for pit selection, real qualifying begins.
Fifty-one cars are on the entry list for the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and fifteen of them have to literally fight their way into the race and can make for the best drama of the weekend.
Predictions were that once NASCAR left the season opener at Daytona the number of cars trying to make the race could fall below the forty-three that constitutes a full Sprint Cup field. The general consensus that the “under funded” teams would not follow the circus west has not held true. Several of these teams including Tommy Baldwin‘s and Jeremy Mayfield‘s said all along that they had every intention of racing the entire season.
Mayfield picked up a sponsor and co-owner in the All-Sport brand of thirst quencher. Baldwin has been sponsored by Red Bank Outfitters in the first three events and have added the third race at Vegas as well. The Yates Racing no. 28 driven by Travis Kvapil had Golden Corral Restaurants on the car at Daytona and they will be back on the car for at least three more races starting in Sin City.
So with the entry lists bigger than expected by NASCAR and many experts; does that go against the business model projections that these start up teams anticipated? Baldwin told ON PIT ROW that the primary reason he felt they could make a go of it in the Cup Series was because there was no testing in the off season and the size of the fields trying to qualify would be smaller.
There are sixteen teams in Vegas looking to fill eight spots. One of those spots will go to Tony Stewart because of his guaranteed provisional. Qualifying is set for 3:30pm local time (pacific), but the real excitement won’t start until the go or go home cars hit the track at approximately 5:00pm. That is when the true knock out qualifying starts as fifteen cars vie for seven spots. That type of knock out qualifying is what made “Bump Day” at Indy in May so exciting and what has the potential for being the best part of the show at each race track.
Just imagine if instead of thirteen drivers having to qualify in; twenty-eight needed to fight for a spot. Changing the Top 35 to the Top 20 would give NASCAR their certified stars in the race and make the rest of the field fight for the privilege to race on Sunday. NASCAR will never abandon the Top 35 rule; we can only hope that they amend it.
Qualifying is an important piece of the NASCAR experience; both at the track and to the television viewer. Therefore, every effort must be made to qualify at least the Cup cars every week. It is fine to schedule qualifying on Friday, but NASCAR has to have a Plan B,C and D ready in case of rain. Qualifying CANNOT be rained out. If it takes until Sunday morning to get cars qualified, then that is what has to be done. It is too important to the Tommy Baldwins, Joe Nemechecks, Jeremy Mayfields, James Finchs, Bob Germains and Bob Jenkins of the world to not make every attempt to get it in. Scrapping qualifying is no longer a luxury that NASCAR can afford; team’s ultimate existence is at stake.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media
by Steve Wronkowicz
NASCAR fans almost got what they have been asking for–no Top 35 rule–at Fontana.
Fans have been less than enthusiastic about the Top 35 rule since its inception. While many of those same fans will acknowledge that there should be some concession for top teams, many think the number should be smaller or non existent. Qualifying at Auto Club Speedway almost gave the fans who think, “They should line ‘em up by how they qualify–period” what they asked for.
When the field rolls off for the start of the Auto Club 500 the 42 fastest cars and Michael Waltrip will make up the field. Waltrip had valve train problems and couldn’t make a qualifying lap for the race. He will start forty-second on the field due to his owner points from 2008. If not for the Top 35 rule, Waltrip would be having a 2007 deja-vu moment. Instead Todd Bodine will pack up his unsponsored, Larry Gunselman owned Toyota and head east to Las Vegas.
Bodine joins Tony Raines, David Starr, Sterling Marlin and Mike Garvey as non-qualifiers.
AJ Almendinger again looked strong, pulling down an eighth place starting spot in his part time ride in the #44 of Richard Petty Motorsports. The lone past champion not in the Top 35, Tony Stewart, took his #14 to an eleventh quickest time ensuring that there was no need for that provisional to be used.
As harsh as it is for Bodine’s team not to make this race, it would be an even bigger injustice to send Waltrip packing. Waltrip has struggled making races; especially in 2007, and it is time for him to reap the benefits of his hard work, and NAPA’s money from 2008.
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media, Inc