By Brody Jones
Over the years, NASCAR teams have done some pretty despicable antics just to keep their teams in the starting field. It was bad enough when teams were start and parking and not bothering to bring pit crews, as Phoenix Racing did at Rockingham back in 2004. It’s been painful to watch Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, and Terry Labonte pimp out their past champion’s provisionals just to race, but this week-end at Talladega, NASCAR has hit an all-new low. Whitney Motorsports plans to have Bill Elliott qualify the car and J.J. Yeley will get in the car at some point during the race, more than likely, for the sole purpose of parking the car. Whitney Motorsports has, in fact, not finished a single race that they have attempted this year, so it is more likely than not going to be a start and park effort.
For NASCAR to even allow such shenanigans to take place is a tremendous black eye and a middle-finger toward the sanctioning body. But the real issue is who suffers the most from this at the end of the day? Is it Dusty Whitney, who will now live in infamy for even concocting this hare-brained scheme? Surely Whitney will lose whatever respect that he ever had in the NASCAR garage area for pulling a stunt like this. Of course, never mind that start and parking is as much of a stain on NASCAR’s legacy as steroids is to major league baseball. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Mr. Whitney, who just forfeited any right to call himself a respectable NASCAR team owner after this. Such bush-league tactics makes teams like MSP/Prism/HP Racing look like Richard Childress Racing by comparison.
Or is Bill Elliott’s reputation finally damaged beyond all repair with this stunt? Less than ten years ago, Bill Elliott was a widely respected, popular driver. He’s had a glowing resume over the years, winning the Winston Million in 1985, being the Winston Cup champion in 1988, a 17-time Most Popular Driver. But for him to even agree to something as deplorable as this? He deserves to be booed at every race he enters now for tarnishing the sport. His fans will defend him, but in good conscience, how can an objective NASCAR fan defend something as heinous as shilling your championship provisional to lock a team in the field so they can start and park? One can understand Bill trying to keep the Elliott name on the race track until Chase is of age to race in NASCAR’s top levels, but if Bill’s going to pull stunts like this, he needs to just go away and avoid killing his legacy.
Probably the most innocent victim in all this is J.J. Yeley, who just seems to be a pawn in this scheme. If Yeley had the car the whole time, yes, he likely was going to start and park, but at least he wouldn’t have been resorting to any unscrupulous tactics just to even race. However, one cannot blame Yeley at all for this. Dusty Whitney, for putting Yeley through the wringer like this, deserves to be black-balled from the sport. What’s absolutely frightening to even think about is this is just going to open a Pandora’s box of unethical schemes just to keep teams locked into a starting field. Such actions like this are why NASCAR needs to, not just do away with the Past Champion’s Provisional, but do away with the irritating top 35 rule as well and just have the fastest 43 cars make the field. It works for the NHRA and has even created (GASP!) actual drama in their championship point standings. But that would make sense, so it’ll never happen. But hey, one can hope, can’t they?