The rumors have been ongoing for two years now. Some “in the know” believe that NASCAR will struggle or even at times be unable to field 43 cars for it’s Sprint Cup division. With the uncertainty around some multiple car teams heading into this winter they believe now is the time the field may dip below 43.
I’m not buying it. Not for a second. The reasons are simple, and their math is flawed.
For starters I am certain that any team in the top-35 at the end of this season will be back in 2011, or at worst they will have shifted their points to another team to ensure they will be at Daytona and the season’s first 5 races. This measure will automatically put in 35 teams.
Then you have to factor in the amount of money teams receive just for making the race. Right now there is 3-4 cars going home every week. So right now there are 46 or so teams vying for 43 starting grid spots. If there were more spots available I am certain that more teams would show up. Even the cars showing up weekly are not the same. Some simply don’t attempt every race for either they don’t like their chances or they are running a limited season.
I don’t have to look far to point out that Joe Nemechek fielded a second car this weekend for Jeff Fuller. While Nemechek’s reasoning for this was so he could run the full race his second car did make the field. These types of measures will ultimately continue for the smallest of teams in the sport as they try to capitalize and make a due in the sport.
Those with the calculators are saying the decline in Richard Petty Motorsports will be the big factor in the field falling below 43. RPM will drop from 4 to 2 cars in 2011. These people also fail to mention that Paul Menard will move from RPM to Richard Childress Racing, which makes the actual loss in cars attempting to race 1. They also don’t mention the intent of Roush-Fenway Racing to put Trevor Bayne in a RPM car for select races next season.
Then there is the case of Stavola-Labonte Racing who is looking to run far more then the three races they ran this season. Former series Champion Terry Labonte will be running the car so making the field will be for certain as his brother Bobby will shift to the #47 next season and no longer require the past champions provisional for the first five races.
They have also twisted the words of Robby Gordon, taking the point that Gordon said he wouldn’t be at every race next season and turning it into Robby Gordon Motorsports would not be at every race. If Robby Gordon wasn’t planning on having his team run every race next season he would not have the desire to try and make his car a top-35 car to simply not run. The same goes for Front Row Motorsports, those it’s just as likely they could sell their owners points to a needy team.
While Tony Stewart insists he doesn’t have the ability to field more then two cars right now he made certain to tell reporters that his ultimate goal was to turn Stewart Hass Racing into a four car team. There has also been plenty of conversations with Michael Waltrip Racing that could see that team expand to four teams sometime in 2011 as well.
The quality of the drivers and teams racing each weekend may ultimately drop off a bit next season but don’t look for the number of teams running the races to drop. While some will be angry about the changes at the back of the pack you have to ask yourself. When is the last team you thought a Front Row, or a Joe Nemechek fielded car was going to win a race anyway? These guys race is simply making the race, let them have it.
Pure and simple. The only way the field size drops is if the money drops and we aren’t talking about a small drop for those at the bottom of the results sheet. We are talking about a drop the size that it would net them no income for a race weekend. If NASCAR were to take such a drastic action it would also signify that the sport was in serious economic trouble.