Looking at the finish of the Watkins Glen Cup race brings about an unusual look to the box score. And the look was good.
When the results are posted week to week, the same cast and crew of names occupy the bottom positions. The same drivers and the same teams trying to survive and build a racing operation pull out of the event early. The expense is minimal and the prize money gives a better profit margin than running all the laps. The whole book keeping bottom line originates from a lack of sponsorship.
Talented yet frequent bottom finishing names include Dave Blaney, J.J. Yeley, Joe Nemechek, Max Papis, TRG, Tommy Baldwin’s team, and James Finch’s operation. At Watkins Glen they made racing efforts and not just pull in with made-up mechanical ailments.
Andy Lally finished 18th in the TRG car. Lally competes regularly in the team’s Grand Am Series entry and is an accomplished road course driver. The Glen is a wise place to spend the money and let him show his ability.
Papis wound up 22nd. His sponsorship is for selected races during the season. The car enters every race, attempts the distance when the budget allows, and follows the start and park route when the dollars for that particular weekend are not available.
Bobby Labonte piloted the Phoenix Racing car owned by Finch. They are similar to Papis where they compete when the sponsorship and budget allows. But need to S & P if there is no backer. Labonte did not have a good day but soldiered on to a 35th place effort. He recently left the TRG ride reportedly not wanting to return to the garage area early on a weekly basis.
Nemechek was credited with 39th on the field. His self-owned car had transmission trouble putting him into the garage area during the event. His crew made repairs and Nemechek returned to the course although laps down. An early race retirement did befall the team.
Ron Fellows was behind the wheel of Baldwin’s car this week. Fellows is money in the bank on a road course especially at Watkins Glen where he has won in NASCAR Nationwide and Trucks. His skill at this venue should not be wasted as a start and park driver. It wasn’t. TBR did the best they could before Fellows spun off track and led to some suspension damage. The 40th place finish was not a 40th place effort.
Dave Blaney in the Prism Motorsports ride and J.J. Yeley in the Whitney Motorsports car failed to qualify for the road race so their racing efforts were not part of the finish.
Business-wise starting and parking make sense. For the integrity of auto racing, I do not care for the practice. It was nice to see real racing efforts by people who don’t always have the means to do so. Here’s to more good fortune coming their way to at least allow their best try at a race.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
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