Saturday, November 10, 2007

Penske points shuffle should not be allowed to happen

AVONDALE, Ariz. - It's just after 2:30, local time, here in the Valley of the Sun and the engines for Saturday's Busch Series race have just fired at Phoenix International Raceway.

As I sit here, I don't know what Roger Penske is planning to do with the car owner points Kurt Busch has amassed in the No. 2 Dodges this year.

I haven't personally had a conversation with anybody affiliated with Penske Racing about that subject yet. That will likely change tonight when I go to a reception at Penske's museum in nearby Scottsdale, but that doesn't mean I'll walk out of there with a definitive answer.

There's talk, though, that the team plans to transfer the owner points from Busch's car to the No. 77 Dodges that Hornish will drive next year. That would guarantee Hornish, the 2006 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion, a starting spot in next year's first five races.

Busch would be protected for those races by the fact he'd be the most recent champion without a guranteed spot.

According to how the rules are written, apparently, there's absolutely nothing to stop the team from doing that. It certainly makes smart business sense for the team to give Hornish and what would be a brand new team a safety net, too.

But just because it can happen doesn't mean that it should. It's certainly not fair of me to expect Penske not to do it simply because I don't think it's what a true "sportsman" should do. I think Hornish should have to earn his way into those races just like anybody else, but that's me spending Roger Penske's money and Penske didn't become as successful as he is by letting things like that happen.

It is fair, though, for me to expect NASCAR to step up and say, "Folks, this just ain't gonna happen."

I know that NASCAR has allowed points swaps before. I know that Paul Menard got a spot in the top 35 in the Nextel Cup Series as the result of a business transaction and not racing competition earlier this year - when Dale Earnhardt Inc. purchased Ginn Racing.

But let me ask you this. If you hit yourself in the head with a hammer 12 times, should it be a rule that you have to keep banging away after you realize that if you stopped it wouldn't hurt as much?

NASCAR should have realized it was getting into a mess when it started letting people sell points and slide car numbers on and off cars willy-nilly. It didn't, and that's a shame.

But even if some of the cows are already out of the corral, that doesn't mean it's not smart to shut the gate before they all get gone. And the idea of letting Sam Hornish Jr. have a free pass for five races next year when other guys who've worked all season this year but failed to make the top 35 stinks.

Yes, I know that happens other ways. I know Dario Franchitti, for example, is going to have top-35 status in the No. 40 Dodges because of what David Stremme did in that car this year. But Chip Ganassi Racing took Stremme out to put Franchitti in, and it's not using up another spot by playing games with provisionals to do so.

NASCAR sometimes acts as if it's powerless to stop something stupid from happening. We all know better. NASCAR can do pretty much what it wants to, and most of the time it shows no lack of willingness to do precisely that.

Step up, boys.


Anonymous said...

nascar has not been about real raceing ,for sometime.everyone should have to earn a spot in each race!so why not include hornish in
this show.hornish came form real raceing ,where you have to earn what you get.

Anonymous said...

Sam has done nothing to impress me in what he has done so far in Nascar. Yes he did make the show in Phoenix this weekend. Yes he crashed out in the Busch race. Big deal!! I along with some others worried about the influx of open wheelers coming to Nascar. not to worry they will not takeover even if Roger has to pull a fast one to get his hotshot driver in the show....

Anonymous said...

FranceCar's rule book is a moving target...moving wherever and whenever the family so chooses...

Anonymous said...

Give Roger Penske enough time and He'll ruin Nascar, just like Tony George is doing to Indy car racing. I think those two were twin brothers and one was stolen from the hospital!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, and I hope the rule which allows trading points is changed prior to it being allowed to happen again. There's no reason that Hornish, or whoever else that is part of a start-up team shouldn't have to earn their way into the race, via qualifying, the same way that the 24, 20, 48, etc. teams did when they were start-up teams.

If there is no rule to prevent it, no doubt Penske will trade the points. Although I would expect Kurt Busch and his team to make the first 5 next year based on speed, a rain out or 2 can be expected during qualifying for one of the first 5 races next year, and that does kinda throw a monkey wrench into Dale Jarrett's racing plans for next year.

Another rule that needs fixing is the provisional rule system. Allow the top 40 qualifying speeds make the race, and allow only 3 provisionals. As for the past-champion provisional- make it so that you've had to be a champion in the past 5 to 10 (max) years in order to be eligible to use it.


Waukegan, IL

Uncle Dewey 88 said...

NASCAR has by accident or design allowed this mess to develop. I did not like the DEI/GINN deal that allowed Mennard into the top 35. He did not earn it. Sam Hornish has earned nothing. He should have to face the same gauntlet that Michael Waltrip, team RED BULL and others have faced. I have no problem with these open wheel guys coming to NASCAR to seek a new career path. Any new team or driver needs to earn his spot.

In my mind, the whole top 35 system is unfair and should be trashed. How about we lock in the top 20 from a qualifying session and then run a short race to fill the field? That way, teams who fail to qualify in the top 20 can get some racing laps and a chance to improve. In my system, there would be no provisionals, not even for a past champion. You make the race on speed or merit, period. I believe the NHRA has run their show very well for many years. No one bitched because John Force failed to make the field.

Anonymous said...

Nascar wonders why there is declining viewership on tv ? Well Mr France this is why. It's been downhill since they started the Bobo chase format..

Monkeesfan said...

The ultimate reason why the sport is losing popularity is that so little of what has happened since the start of 1990 should never have been allowed by NASCAR - limits on testing, multicar teams, speeday fratricide and the bullying of Bruton Smith, speedway monopolies, engine-building monopolies, points-swapping within multicar teams, the overall deterioration of the competition, the deterioration of the sport's support series, the foreign-ization of the driver lineups - none of this should have ever been allowed by the sanctioning body.

People gripe about the Top 35 rule. The premise is good, but it's insufficient. The blunt truth is there should never be send-homes after qualifying. Then we would not have any of these controversies.

John talks about how Tony George has ruined Indycar racing - he's wrong; CART is what ruined Indycar racing, Tony George actually made it legitimate again but let Honda and Toyota bankrupt it.

Anonymous said...

And Junior getting the 25 Mears, or the 5 Busch's points is different how?

brett1963 said...

Agreeing with David here. We could potentially have nearly every spot locked up if they allow this type of thing to continue making qualifying day "arranging day" as Moody would put it. These simple changes would go a long way to making the sport better IMHO:

1. No More Champions Provisional. Period. End of Story. BUH BYE

2. Turn the TOP 35 upside down.
The TOP 35 should Qualify on Speed. The remaining 8 should be filled by the highest points total of the remaining cars.

I have yet to hear of a better plan.

Uncle Dewey 88 said...

And Junior getting the 25 Mears, or the 5 Busch's points is different how?

Answer: Junior will get the owner points accrued by the current 25 team. This is a legitimate thing since the points were earned by that team during this season. The only thing the are doing is changing the car number. There is plenty of precedence for this. Some examples are RYR changing from the 28 to 38, RCR from the 3 to 29 and so on.

Casey Mears will drive the 5 and get the owner points earned by the 5 this season. Kyle Bush will drive the 18 and and his lock in to the top 35 will be due to JJ Yeley's performance.

What Roger Penske wants to do may well be within the rules, but it smells. By taking the owner points from the 2 to the 77, he will lock in Sam Hornish for the first 5 races. The 2 will have to qualify on speed or use a past champion provisional to make the field.

That Penske apparently can do this shows how really dumb NA$CAR can be to allow it.

elena said...

I think it would be great to have both sides of the issue discussed. As far as the rule of 35, last week Jeff B was on Nascar Now and said he'd like to have the rule changed to 40. Of course he was given about 1-2 mnutes to explain his stance, and that was not enough. But he said that for example, the Cowboys know they are going to play all season and spend the money. They are not guaranteed a spot in the play-offs, they have to earn that.

He also felt that this rule was started after many owners have sunk millions into their operations. Now, if someone wants a team, they know the rules before they spend a dime.

The NFL is arguably the most successful sport industry. No one is even close to them. They have franchses and protect owners. Some rich guy with billions just can't come in and say he wants to be part of the NFL. Mark Cuban wants one, but many in power don't want him as an owner, even though he's got the bucks.

Changing the rule of 35 to 10 or whatever, would be like a domino effect, and have a huge effect on many teams. Good by Petty. I suspect Richard would fight a rule change unless it goes to 40. Then someone would complain becasue HMS has too many poles and the rules should be changed to offset that.

Anonymous said...

Brett is right on on this one...

The top 35 as it is is a joke. Qualifying is also a joke.

Anonymous said...

if they don't let penske do it this way he can just put hornish in the 2 and busch in the 77. what's the difference? it works the same both ways.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I remember wrong, but didn't Michael Waltrip do this SAME thing with Bill Davis prior to starting his team? When the 77 car (Penske/Kvapil) stopped running, the Jasper ownership part of that car (Doug Bawel) partnered up with Davis/Waltrip so that Michael (new car/team) would have provisionals to start the season. Also, didn't Michael buy Cal Well's 32 points for the 00 car (granted they were 37th)?

Wasn't a Champ Provisional, but the same premise. Didn't seem to be an issue then!

Year end top 35 should only count for Daytona, not the first 5 races. Just like any other race after the 5th one.

Anonymous said...

I think Penske should leave the point on the 2! I'm a Kurt fan and do not want to see him have to us a provisional when HE earned the points, not Hornish.

stricklinfan82 said...

I don't blame Roger Penske at all. I think it's a brilliant move. It's a simple concept, do you want 2 or your cars locked into the first 5 races next year, or do you want all 3? Obviously you would want all 3.

That being said, the champion's provisional needs to go. When 35 of the 43 spots are already locked in each week it's a joke to reserve a 36th spot for a driver that happened to scored the most points in a season as many as 19 years ago.

The champion's provisional added an extra spot to the field from its creation in 1990 through 1997, so there wasn't so much bad about it. If a champion didn't qualifying in the top 38, the starting field expanded from 42 cars to 43. Since 1998 however the champion's provisional has often taken a starting spot away from a more deserving driver, and since the creation of the top 35 rule has been completely ABUSED. We've seen Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte become hired guns for the sole reason that they have champion's provisionals and can guarantee non-top 35 teams starting spots into races they would otherwise have to earn their way into. We've seen the 19, 96, 21, 55, 11, and 37 teams all use these drivers in the last 3 years just to get a free pass into starting fields, which is just completely wrong. We heard the rumblings that the 43 and 45 would swap owner's points in the event that the 45 fell out of the top 35. And now we've seen the soon-to-be joke of the 2 and 77 swapping owner's points.

The champion's provisional has run its course and needs to go right now. It is not being used as it was originally intended to be. WAKE UP NASCAR, this isn't 1990 any more!!!!!!!!

Paul Stagg said...

This is simply a result of the stupid top 35 rule. Eliminate that, and you eliminate the need for points swapping.

With owners having multiple teams, there's really no way to stop it. If there were a rule against point swapping, Penske could but Hornish in the 2, paint Mobil 1 on it, and put Kurt in the 77 Miller Lite car.

The only way to put the horse back in the barn is to eliminate provisionals all together - the top 35 provisionals, and the past champ provisionals.

I'm not holding my breath.

Monkeesfan said...

The only fair way to handle the whole provisional issue is - no more send-homes; where you time in qualifying is where you start.

I get tired of the "then fields will be too crowded" argument. It's infinately better than sending teams home after qualifying. Racing is supposed to be about Sunday, not Friday or Thuirsday.

Anonymous said...

Fact is NASCAR should do a lot of things to make the racing better again. Starting with NO guaranteedt spots on race day. The fastest 43 cars race and that's it. No points shuffles, no number swapping, no provisionals. No more Chase - just points. Stop downforce being the number one speed additive. No tunnel time, alter the templates to make the car punch bigger holes. When some one cheats and is caught suspend the entire team. Take the restrictor plates of and take the high banked corners out of the big tracks. The drivers will slow down inthe corners if they have to. Make a win worth a substantial amount of points more than 2nd, 3rd, etc so that drivers become racers again. The thing that gets me is that a great driver used to be able to take a mediocre car to a top 5, and now a mediocre driver with a great car can win.

brett1963 said...

monkeesfan, everybody races? there are only 43 pit stalls (42 at dover)

Anonymous above, nice plan if your intention is to kill the sport.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR will never go to a "no provisional" policy. Before the Top 35 rule was implemented, teams earned a set number of provisionals by race attempts. That way, the big name drivers & teams had some security during qualifying from blown engines, cut tires, etc. NASCAR went to the Top 35 rule when some of the big name teams & sponsors ran out of provisionls due to poor performance (Klye Petty, Tide car, Valvoline, etc) WIth the cost of sponsorship going through the roof, companies are not willing to spend multi-millions of dollars on marketing through a NASCAR sponsorship if they don't have some assurance that they are going to get some return on their investment.

IMO, if NASCAR ever went to a policy of only 'the fastest 43' make the field, then they need to go back to having two days of qualifying.

As a side note, on a radio show a few months back, a reporter that covers NASCAR was asked about the Top 35 rule. He stated that the rule was fine, that the majority of the fans in the stands don't go to the races to watch the 'back markers' run. He said that the reaon these teams are not in the top 35 is b/c of their poor performance. He said that the majority of the fans don't care if the #4 makes the field b/c they are there to see the Gordon, Dale Jr., Jimmie, Tony,etc.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. This is a great big F YOU from Nascar to teams like the Wood Brothers who built this sport. But then again, we all know that Nascar could give a big fat rats a#$ about tradition and loyalty!

Monkeesfan said...

nhybrett1963, they can make the Hendrick and other money-guy teams share pits. They do in the long run need to enlarge pit roads to handle more than 50 cars.

anonymous #19, you obviously refuse to understand racing. The sport can't afford to stiffarm teams in qualifying, so "fastest 43race and that's it" cheats the sport.

You can't stop downforce from being the speed additive because it's fundamental to racing; the cars need it.

"Alter the templates to make the cars punch bigger holes." And how does altering the templates do that? You don't even need to alter the templates, just use a 7-inch spoiler and stick a wicker on the roof.

"When someone is caught cheating, suspend the entire team." Do more than that - suspend them for several races, fine them four races worth of points, and take away any right to appeal.

"Take the restrictor plates off and lower the banking on the big tracks." Puh-leeze, is there no shortage of idiots about restrictor plate racing? The drivers WILL NEVER SLOW DOWN FOR THE CORNERS because to do so concedes the race. The restrictor plates are permanent necessity for the sport, and make the racing better. Instead of taking them off, put them on more tracks.

"It used to be a great driver could win with a mediocre car and now a mediocre driver with a great car can win." Then take the resource/technology arms race away from teams like Hendrick and Roush - BTW, David Poole, that's why they win all the COT races even though the cars are supposedly all alike; if they truly were all alike and the resource/technology arms race was nullified, Hendrick would never win more than eight races a year because there are too many legitimately good teams for that.

Anonymous said...

The Top 35 Rule affects big and small organizations equally. If JGR or RCR wanted to start a 4th team, each would face the same obstacle as a smaller team....they would have to qualify on time for each race. Both small and large organizations have taken advantage of using past champions to quarantee their team a spot in the field.

The puported Penske points shuffle is not different that any other team hiring a past champion to drive their car on an as needed basis (ex. #21).

The argument that NASCAR does not care about 'loyalty' to the sport b/c of the Top 35 rule is bogus. Loyalty has nothing to do with the Top 35. It is all about performance. Petty racing and the Wood Brothers racing have been in the sport for many years. One team has its cars in the top 35, another has its car outside of the top 35. "Loyalty" did not put the Petty cars into the top 35....performance did.

Under the old provisional system, new start up teams had to qualify on time. Some new teams had no problem making the races, while others struggled. The same is true for the current system with the Top 35 rule. Under the old provisional system, the teams were given provisionals for 'race attempts'. Thus a "start and park" team could attempt a lot of races (with no intent on ever finishing them) and get rewarded for putting forth minimal effort. At least under the current top 35 rule, the teams are rewarded for performance.

Anonymous said...

The qualifying issue is very easy to fix. The fastest cars fill the field based upon their qualifying times, period. Absolutely no provisionals whatsoever. If a big name such as Earnhardt, Johnson, Gordon, etc. doesn't make a race, then that's tough. Racing is about being the fastest, and if you aren't, then go home!

Anonymous said...

I think that if DEI was able to play the card that Penske should be able to as well. It doesnt matter who the team is whether its from a Icon who died to a business tycoon..if one team can do it then its fair that any other team that can do it should be able. The problem here lies the top 35 rule. If na$car would get off their ass and take away the "Lets get all the stars into the race" rule then we would not be discussing this problem. ever since Na$car would get off their fat lazy ass and bring racing back to where it was intended to be then those tv ratings that Brian France has so many excuses for would more than likely return. Do away with some of the rules and not change others.