This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the Kentucky Speedway for the fourth time. There are only 42 cars entered for the race, which typically has a 43 car field. The last time there was a short field was in 1997 when only 42 cars ran because the 43rd spot was reserved for a former Cup Champion that didn’t qualify. There was also a shot field for the New Hampshire race that was rescheduled in 2001 due to what happened the week of 9-11.
It is being said that having a short field is a reflection of problems in NASCAR, the economy and racing in general. In reality it might actually be healthy for the sport.
The past five or more years there have been many “Start and Park” teams. These teams qualify for the race; start the race, then after sometimes as few as one lap they park in order to earn the last place money. This is not very exciting for the fans and in fact somewhat insulting. This and this alone has been unhealthy for the sport. Sure some of those teams used the money to further their Nationwide programs, but it just doesn’t look good and is not in the spirit of competition.
Having a spot open in the field leads to opportunities for other teams to concentrate on the bigger picture, not just qualifying for the race. Since they are all but guaranteed to make the race, they can attract a sponsor since that sponsor will know that the car will be in the race.
Many of the lower teams have been caught in a Catch-22 of only being able to work on qualifying in order to make the race instead of working on racing. Their on-track performance has suffered due to not being able to get their cars up to speed in race conditions. This is a big opportunity for them to step it up and be able to better compete.
If some of those teams can better compete, then the overall racing will be better and that is what we as fans want more than anything.
If you cannot get to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts it will be broadcast on TNT on Saturday Night, June 28th at 6:30 PM ET.
Feature Photo Credit: 287476 Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images