NASCAR And Their Playing Field

NASCAR Michigan Auto Racing

Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch leads the field during the NASCAR Quicken Loans 400 auto race at Michigan International Speedway, Sunday, June 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Mich. (AP Photo/Bob Brodbeck)

With NASCAR’s season beginning in earnest tomorrow night with the “Duel” races that will set most of the qualifying field for Sunday’s Daytona 500, I’ve been reading up on the various rule changes. This is more or less a habit of mine whenever a new sporting season starts, because when one season is going on, another one isn’t, and there’s usually personnel shifting and rule changes that can easily go missed.

Much to my surprise, I discovered that the number of cars in any NASCAR race was reduced in the off-season 43 to 40, and that owned teams (now part of a “charter”) that automatically get into a Sprint Cup race went up from 35 to 36.

This left me more or less conflicted. I can understand why NASCAR management would want the “ace drivers” and cars competing in every race in every city. Then again, I always like a good “underdog” story of a driver on the rebound, trying to get back in the “big game” of the NASCAR Sprint Cup level. I think that’s a selling point in any major sport, professional or collegiately, building up competition by giving lesser known teams and players the chance to compete at the highest levels.

At the same time, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. There’s a lot of positives in what NASCAR has done in the past 15 years. The FOX television deal was a big shot in the arm towards their national expansion, and they’ve made great strides in safety since the tragic death of the senior Dale Earnhardt. I just think it would be fairer to guarantee spots to, say, the best 20 owned teams as opposed to giving 90% of the field guaranteed spots.

But that’s just me, and perhaps NASCAR eventually gets there.


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