Start-and-parkers. They're the parsley of NASCAR -- they don't really get in the way and they don't have a whole lot of effect on the race as a whole, but if you think about them, you wonder what the hell they're doing there in the first place.
Start-and-parkers -- the guys who start the race then peel off soon afterward with "engine problems" and collect a fat little check -- drive some people nuts. The idea of someone coming to a race with no intention of, you know, racing is, on a competitive level, a bit offensive. Don't show up unless you're ready to go the distance, some fans charge, and they have a point.
Now, NASCAR might -- I say might -- be paying attention. NASCAR officials confiscated Blaney's No. 66 Prism Motorsports Toyota after Blaney had run just 43 laps. Standard enough, right? Well, problem is, NASCAR has said the car won't be returned until next Saturday -- long after the time to qualify for Las Vegas -- and since Prism Motorsports doesn't have a backup, Prism Motorsports is, as we used to say, screwed, blued and tattooed.
Over at FoxSports.com, Lee Spencer has an interesting column suggesting why NASCAR might be cracking down on Prism -- because they've got two cars making a grab for race cash, not just one:
“It’s one thing to try to race each week,” said the manager of a team that generally finishes among the 40-somethings who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But I think doing two (teams) to get a check isn’t going to sit very well with NASCAR.”
Prism took home more than $160,000 for its two cars, which ran a total of 83 laps. (Michael McDowell was in the other.) And while that seems a bit suspect, or at least frustrating, Prism has said it would be willing to run a whole race, and a whole season, if it had the sponsorship money to do so.
Bottom line: nobody's happy with the start-and-parkers, but it's the way the rules are set up. If NASCAR is indeed cracking down on them, it needs to just come out and say so. Of all the NASCAR initiatives so far, that's the one least likely to draw fan heat.