Enough With All This Start-and-Park Nonsense

Journo, the anonymous writer who is a main contributor to  NASCARInsiders.com, has added his/her own views to the start-and-park debate. While this writer offers some valid arguments to suggest that the whole issue is overblown, Journo is too quick to write-off the frustrations of teams like Tommy Baldwin Racing and Jeremy Mayfield Motorsports.

After dismissing start-and-park as a fairly inconsequential aspect of the sport and one that has been a part of the game for decades, Journo admits that it "stinks" that teams like TBR and JMM, organizations that are trying to achieve a measure of conventional success in NASCAR, are displaced by start-and-parkers. The writer continues, taking refuge in the following: 

Ultimately though if you want to make a race, you need to qualify. If you can’t do that you can’t be in a race. That is just how things work. 

Well, duh … but that obvious line of defense appears to miss the larger point that some opponents of start-and-park have been trying to make — namely, that the requirements of making a qualifying run are vastly different than setting up a car to qualify and run 500 miles.

The fact is, start-and-parkers, while doing nothing "wrong," are taking advantage of a flaw in the system. As a fan of NASCARInsiders and as one who is generally inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt, I am willing to assume that this variation isn’t lost on Journo; why, however, the writer is willing to dismiss this subtlety is beyond me.

And while I’m surprised at Journo’s defense of start-and-parkers from an economic standpoint — they employ people and buy parts, after all — I’m baffled by the assertion that "… competition is not being hurt by one or two of these teams making the field." Certainly, I can’t disagree with that assertion — no one has been injured, for example, by the presence of a start-and-parker. However, again, I think the statement misses the larger, more subtle point: Would or could the racing be improved by deeper fields of teams looking to be in both that specific race and the sport in general for the longer haul?

To me, the answer is obvious.

No, I don’t have any straightforward solutions to what I believe is a legitimate issue for the sport; but, neither do I accept the blithe assertions of Robin Pemberton or Jim Hunter that NASCAR can’t effectively police start-and-park even if it wanted to. The governing body controls virtually every aspect of the teams’ and drivers’ competitive lives: I find it hard to believe that NASCAR couldn’t institute a few controls, i.e., perhaps a minimum lap requirement, to ensure that every car on the grid is making a good-faith effort to race.