Feeding The Start And Park Beast

By Brody Jones

If you watch NASCAR consistently, one of the more disturbing trends in NASCAR has been the practice of starting the race and then parking about five laps in. It’s kind of like if you are coaching a football team and only have them play one series on offense and defense before forfeiting the game. But in terms of dollars and cents, the practice makes sense as it allows teams to build up funds to get more cars and better equipment without tearing up what they have. It also helps balance out the rather expensive tire bills that teams have from time to time.
In the Cup Series, some of the primary culprits include Joe Nemechek, Gunselman Motorsports, Whitney Motorsports, and perhaps the most notorious start-and-park team to ever disgrace NASCAR with their presence, PRiSM Motorsports. In roughly three years of existence in the Nationwide and Cup Series, the team has attempted the full schedule and only run the complete distance in a laughable three events in that team, with none of those being in their own equipment. The team has become fodder for racing message boards everywhere and a hot topic of debate. The many detractors say the team is making a mockery of NASCAR while their supporters say they are doing what they have to do to survive. There are a few other teams that will run two fully-sponsored cars and one start-and-park vehicle, or even one car for the full distance and two to start-and-park.
Some think this epidemic has only recently cropped up. Nothing could be further from the truth as this has been around at least since the 1960′s, except the difference instead of drivers getting creative with the reason the car didn’t finish, like today’s “rear end”, “ignition”, and “transmission” problems, they just simply listed the reason they didn’t finish as “Quit”. Pretty astute reason, if you ask me. Surprised you don’t see more owners that practice start-and-parking just come out and say they quit the race, because it’s the brutally honest truth of the matter. This practice has only become common knowledge in recent years and in fact, there have been Busch Series races at tracks like Pike’s Peak and Milwaukee where almost one-third of the field parked their cars. That’s right, 13 cars engaged in start-and-park practices in a race. Frightening, isn’t it?
But for the teams that actually use the practice, in hopes of becoming more competitive, one cannot fault those teams compared to other teams who are solely out to exploit the system. One team that uses the start-and-park practice from time-to-time in hopes of becoming more competitive is the K Automotive organization. While they park one (sometimes two) race cars, they try to focus their efforts on one primary car and have run respectably at times. A better example is the SS/Greenlight Racing team, which has been known to pull out a start-and-park effort every now and then, but over the course of time, with Jason White and Chad McCumbee, have turned themselves from an also ran organization to a competitive, mid-to-upper level Truck Series organization. So there is hope for some of the practitioners of start-and-parking.
In closing, start and parking is kind of a double-edged sword. If you practice it wisely, you can eventually become a consistent competitor. But if you are just out to manipulate the system, you make your team and everyone associated with it an absolute disgrace to NASCAR. To NASCAR’s credit, they have taken some steps to try and discourage the practice by inspecting these cars as soon as they exit the race and, even in a few situations, telling them to get back on the track. So what is the solution to the problem? Honestly, what people should be asking is does a solution even exist? One cannot fault the crews and drivers for the practice, as it allows them to feed families that are dependent on their income. But in terms of honesty, perhaps being a used car salesman, trying to sell rusted AMC Gremlins would be a more honest practice.