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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Burton: More than 43 cars bad for NASCAR

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Jeff Burton raised some eyebrows this weekend at MIS when he suggested that NASCAR not allow more than 43 teams to compete for the right to race on Sunday.

Responding to a question about sponsorship issues, here’s what he said.
“Forty-three cars that are assured of being in the field is the best scenario for our sport,” Burton said. “Professional golf being the exception, we are the only major sport that has to make the investment that we make and you don’t know 100 percent you’re in the field. Now, the top 35 rule is a tremendous in the right direction … but it ought to be a 43 rule.”

He wouldn’t use the word franchise (the “f-word” as he put it), but he further explained that his view comes from the standpoint of NASCAR being a business.

“The philosophy of having 48 cars all vying for 43 spots, I know that’s cool and everything or if you’re not good enough you just go home and don’t deserve to be in the race,” Burton said. “That’s not economically sound. … The cost of sponsorship is being devalued because they have more choices. The employees are losing opportunities. There’s really no adavantage in all that and our sport is less secure.”

I have several issues with Burton’s comments. First off, why does he even care? His team is well locked into all the races and he probably hasn’t missed a race since the early 1990s.

Secondly, how does he propose this would work. How would NASCAR decide which 43 teams would be the annointed ones that are allowed to race. And suppose a team owner wanted to make the jump from Nationwide to Cup … I’m guessing he’d have to apply and wait for a Cup team to drop out so a spot opened up? What about weeks like Sonoma and Watkins Glen where road course ringers want a shot to qualify for the race in smaller, part-time teams?

I’m not sure why this became an issue for Burton, or when he decided he would act as NASCAR’s business manager, but it seems like a very strange rant to me. The idea of closing off competition to new people would be a terrible idea and goes against the very idea of competition that makes NASCAR as exciting as it is.

If anything, Burton is going in the wrong direction with his suggestions. This top 35 rule is pretty silly. If you’re in the top 35 in points, you should be able to bring a car that can qualify for the race. If you don’t have a car that good, you deserve to go home. In the case of a qualifying wreck, there have long been provisional rules to allow top drivers to still make the race.

I’m not sure what NASCAR is afraid of. Are they afraid Dale Jr. is going to miss a race and the fans will scream bloody murder? The way I see it, NASCAR is about speed. If you’re not fast, why should you be in the race just because you have a big name in the sport.

Edwards defends Ford, Roush home turf
Despite challenges from Toyota drivers Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart, Carl Edward ended up taking the checkered flag for Jack Roush and Ford. This was the first week it was clear that the horsepower ruling against Toyota clearly had an effect. If NASCAR hadn’t pulled back the Toyota power, there’s a good chance they would be celebrating their first MIS victory.

It was a decent day for Rochester Hills natives Brad and Brian Keselowki at MIS on Saturday. Brad pulled out an 11th place finish to keep about the same distance between himself and points lead Clint Bowyer (though he did get jumped by Carl Edwards in the standings). His brother Brian finished a lap down in 24th.

King helps kick off Dream Cruise
The King himself, Richard Petty, appeared with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard Friday night at an event in Birmingham, to officially kick of the Dream Cruise. During a parade, Petty drove the 1971 Plymouth Road Runner that won the 1971 Daytona 500 down Woodward Avenue. Also taking part in the parade was Kurt Busch.

Hornish not hanging his head
Rookie Sam Hornish has had a tough year, as have all the rookies, but said this weekend at MIS that he’s keeping a positive attitude.

“I think each race we come back stronger,“ Hornish said. “We’ve had problems at certain racetracks, a lot of them it's my first time. I’m not a rookie that ran Busch for years."


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