There has been much talk over the last few years about start and park teams in NASCAR. One side of the argument is – It’s not fair for teams to come to the racetrack, make the field, run just a few laps, load up and go home. At the same time collecting a paycheck that, to us mere mortals, seems like a lot of money.
Critics also say that when teams do this, it is somehow taking away a starting spot for another team that wants to compete. We have even heard some fans say they do not like the fact that they pay to see 43 cars and they are being ripped-off when two or three pull out and had no intention of racing at all.
Supporters of the start and park action say – It gives the team an opportunity to earn enough money to start and run a full race in the future with a better prepared effort, plenty of new tires, a fresh engine etc.. Which will in turn give them an opportunity to run a little better and maybe, just maybe attract a sponsor that could someday permit them to run full-time.
We have definitely had teams that fit into both sides of the argument. Some teams have entered races with no intention of ever running a full race. They are doing nothing more than taking advantage of an opportunity that has presented itself for a multitude of reasons. Not the least of which is a lack of available sponsors that want or can afford to sponsor a full-time Cup Series team.
Other teams, however, such as Tommy Baldwin Motorsports, have turned start and park races into a full-time race team. TBR currently field cars for Dave Blaney. Front Row Motorsports also fits into this category. They are a small team trying to take that next step. They currently field three cars. Two full-time cars, David Ragan and David Gilliland and one start and park car with driver Josh Wise.
The team has multiple part-time sponsors that rotate in and out on each car. They were able to taste success earlier this season at Talladega, when Ragan and Gilliland finished one-two respectively.
The No.35 team driven by Josh Wise had been mostly a part time team this season. The team will be told how many laps they can run in a given event. The idea is to save time on the engine and other equipment so that they may run it in several races before needing to replace or rebuild it. Of course if things are going well, they may be permitted to run longer.
The refreshing thing about this team is that they are not remaining static. They are constantly working to make the car and team better. Earlier this season, they brought in a new crew chief, Todd Anderson, in an effort to do more with what they have. Results so far have been good. When the team is only running limited laps, Anderson can try things a little outside the box and see if he can hit on something that could benefit the entire team.
In cases where they will be running the complete race, he can apply the things he has learned and try to get the best finish possible. Two weeks ago at Bristol, Anderson used pit strategy to get track position and driver Josh Wise was able to maintain it for many laps. The No. 35 was running solidly in the top ten until he got together with Kurt Busch and cut a tire. It was a very impressive run for the team and shows that they are making improvements.
The team will again attempt to run the entire race again this weekend at Richmond. Short tracks are good place to compete due to the fact that aerodynamics do not come into play as much, thereby reducing the need for expensive wind tunnel testing.
Combining a young talented driver such as Josh Wise, with an experienced crew chief like Todd Anderson, then adding the desire to compete and perform from a great team owner like Bob Jenkins will eventually lead to a successful venture. Using part-time races is another tool available to teams such as Front Row to help them achieve their goals.
I believe NASCAR sees the need for smaller teams to utilize this when its available. Hopefully, they will not stop it with the rulebook. Things such as this usually police themselves. When more teams start showing up to run full-time, everyone will have to step up their game just to make the field. After all, if it were not permitted, Tommy Baldwin Racing may not exist.