A Short NASCAR Sprint Cup Field is Healthy for the Sport

A Short NASCAR Sprint Cup Field is Healthy for the Sport

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.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 287476 Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images


6 thoughts on “A Short NASCAR Sprint Cup Field is Healthy for the Sport”

  1. Short fields good for the sport? That’s a stretch. How about half the field not being competitive with the big money teams? Even the worse driver out there can get a top 20 finish through attrition and beating the clunkers. Yes, she can.

  2. Saying short fields are good for the sport is kinda like saying having cancer is a good weight loss program. You don’t rationalize bad things happening unless you’re in denial.

  3. Brian Your thoughts sound good and I would agree somewhat with what you said but also keep in mind that Start and Parks have been around forever. It is actually the spring board that has helped many teams get their foot in the door so they can field a car to start with and then once they show that they are at the track and moving in the right direction hopefully attract a sponsor to help support their program so that they can compete on a full-time status. 90% of the teams that have entered the sport over the last 10-15 years have worked their way up after entering the sport as a S & P team, such as 33, 86, 32,40 all of which compete on a full-time basis.
    I believe that the last team that entered the sport fully funded with a big sponsor was Red Bull. It proved that without a sponsor to pay the majority of the budget it’s nearly impossible to make money operating a NASCAR team even when you take all of the purses into consideration the costs of the equipment, parts labor, repairs make it a loosing venture that operates in the red and a business model that will not be able to support itself for any length of time.
    The goal of getting rid of Start and parks was pretty much accomplished when they adjusted the purse for the 37th thru 43 place to $5000 increments for each spot. It did incentives a team to run the whole race but also removed the opportunity of teams wanting to attempt because The minimum amount of money to attempt a race now far exceeds the payout of the purse for spots 41-43. Kentucky’s purse for last place was roughly $46-$48 K, and unless you own your own engine which is almost impossible to find because they don’t often sale them, rental for a race starts at $35K and runs as high as $70 K it makes the the deal a $15-$20 dollar looser.

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