Curbing start and park

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth recently in and around the NASCAR garages about "start and park" teams making a mockery of the competition side of the sport.

The concern is that some teams show up at races hoping just to qualify, but with no real intention to race more than a handful of laps.

The reason behind it, like most every human foible, is money.

NASCAR pays enormous amounts in purses every race and that filters right down to the 43rd and final spot. A glance at the first four events of the 2009 Sprint Cup season shows just how lucrative it can be for just completing one lap of a 200 or 300-lap race.

This is how much last place paid so far: Daytona ($317,720 US), California ($82,690), Las Vegas ($129,669) and Atlanta ($70,141).

Not that this is the case on the Sprint Cup circuit, but theoretically, a team could have walked away with more than $600,000 in a month with their only expenses being getting to and from the racetrack.

NASCAR bosses are aware of the issue.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice-president of competition, talked in Atlanta last week about the prospect of "start and park" teams becoming a problem in the series.

"We owe it to the garage area (to make sure) that everybody is on the up-and-up," Pemberton said.

"What we're going to encourage at this level here is that people participate and do what they can do to race.

"What we want to prevent is someone legitimately trying to do a race setup and getting bumped out by somebody that may have gone above and beyond what the spirit of the rules are."

The Eury factor

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. left his late father's racing team in 2008, one of the demands he made of his new team owner Rick Hendrick was that his Dale Earnhardt Inc. crew chief Tony Eury Jr. be part of the package on the new No. 88 Chevrolet team.

Junior argued successfully that the transition to Hendrick would be easier with Eury Jr. on board.

Everybody was aware that Eury was Junior's cousin and closest friend.

But the same number of people -- and that includes Hendrick -- also were aware that the two argue and fight as only family members can.

Hendrick went as far as to publicly admonish the pair's antics during a race last year when their bickering on the radio got even more colourful than usual.

What once were just whispers that the hot-tempered pairing may be at the root of Junior's mediocre results so far this season, are now as loud as the fighter jet flyovers that mark the start of every race.

That Hendrick has not acted yet to get the No. 88 team a new pit boss is astounding.

It says here that the only hope Junior has of getting his name on a Sprint Cup championship is if he gets himself a new crew chief.

Sad farewell

In a week where Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday as the world's most famous doll, a sad note in the world of racing.

Peter Taws, father of Barbie racing driver Ashley Taws, passed away suddenly this past week while on a family vacation in Florida.

Coupled with that news was another announcement that Ashley was retiring from active racing.

"A lot of people have been really supportive over the years," Ashley said.

"Thanks to my dad who got me started in go-karts when I was nine and was always my biggest supporter."

Ashley intends to make use of her studies at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., and pursue a career in marketing.

Canadian corner

Less than a month to go before the season opening race of the Indy Racing League and a pair of veteran Canadian drivers -- Toronto's Paul Tracy and Montreal's Alex Tagliani -- still are attempting to put together a sponsorship package that would allow them to have a place on the grid at St. Petersburg.

While Tracy now appears to be targeting the Indianapolis 500 for his first start of the season if he can put a deal together with his old pal Jimmy Vasser at KV Racing, Tagliani is said to be working hard on a package that would put him in a second car at Conquest Racing for opening day in Florida.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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