October 31, 2004, Atlanta Motor Speedway - 58 cars showed up for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race and of the 15 that didn't make the show, 2 were high-priced casualties: the #10 MBV Motorsports car driven by Scott Riggs, and the #22 of Bill Davis Racing driven by Scott Wimmer. They were bumped by the likes of Tony Raines and Todd Bodine, driving cars fielded by scrub owners no one would remember and backed by sponsors no one ever heard of. But the fact that the #10 and #22 they were sponsored by Valvoline and Caterpillar, two companies with long histories NASCAR, did. And in one panic stricken knee jerk reaction, the Top 35 Rule was born.
The premise of the rule may have seemed like a good idea at that particular moment in time as a means to "protect" a sponsor's marketing investment. However, in a classic twist of cruel irony, the two cars that spawned the whole thing missed 10 races the following year as they both struggled to stay in the Top 35. Another intent of the Top 35 rule was to cut down on the number of 'field fillers' from making a race because the rule is weighted to help, supposedly, the fully-funded teams - remember, this was during a time when 50+ entries were the norm.
With the new rule announced and the big gun good old boy owners rejoicing, off in the distance there was a sucking sound that went ignored. It was the sound of their team values riding the Coriolis swirl into the sewer. But no matter, franchising was just around the corner and with it a 4-car team's worth will be on par with that of a NFL franchise! All hail NASCAR!
The only thing of any real value today for a NASCAR team are Owner Points. This years musical chairs payola tournament is further proof. And NASCAR has the final say who gets them. Optimism, narcissism, and shortsightedness are the makings for guaranteed disaster. As writer Thomas Tusser said over 400 years ago, "A fool and his money are soon parted." The owners foolishly handed control of their respective team values over to NASCAR in exchange for....points. And NASCAR smiled. The owners just made the sanctioning body and those precious points more valuable than the blood, sweat and tens of millions of dollars they've poured into their own teams. I have to give NASCAR credit, they are unequaled in giving back by taking more.
How much do you think the hard parts, equipment, and inventory of the #6 team are worth today? Pennies on the dollar. Same as the #7 team (this must be the parity NASCAR is referring to.) Owner Points have become GOLD thanks to the Top 35 Rule. Yeah, I can understand why Robby feels like he's stuck. He made the commitment, the investment, and they changed the rules. The Top 35 rule has dogged him since day one, and by day one I'm referring to the 2005 Daytona 500. Robby qualified 38th out of 59 cars and finished 7th in his Duel race. In previous years Robby would have had a top 20 starting spot for the big show, but thanks to the new Top 35 rule he had to put the car in the hauler and missed a minimum $250K payout. For a new start up, that's a hard kick to the genitals.
If NASCAR really wanted to help teams attract investment and retain much more hard asset value they would get rid of the Top 35 Owner Points AND all the damn provisional excuses altogether. Look at Daytona qualifying this year. After the 35 locked in spots and all the past this and that provisionals, etc., only THREE cars have a shot at making the show. Who wants to invest against a stacked deck?
Eliminate the owner points and replace it with a Top 35 Drivers Point system. This would quickly accomplish a couple of things, 1) It would place the focus of a team's value where it rightfully should be: real estate, equipment, cars, etc. 2) It would increase the value of active, experienced drivers and in the process make the chicken shit past champion provisional some team owners use obsolete.
The 48 could have some real point problems now after getting docked 25 pts. today, but with the past champions provisional they would still be good for getting in all races.. Even as much of a hole that they are in now, I would think they should be able to at least race their way in the top 35 after 5 races..
I actually thought the old provisional rule was the most fair. The fastest cars were still rewarded and the teams high enough in pts had protection if they had qualifying trouble. I think with the old provisional rule still rewarded teams that raced every week while allowing teams that only showed up as part timers a good shot at getting in races. NASCAR made too much of a knee jerk reaction going to the Top 35 rule.
Interesting point in the article.
No top 35 rule, 58 cars for 43 spots
Top 35 rule, 44 cars for 43 spots
Coincidence? I don't think so. Folks will say it's the economy but I think that's only part of equation. I think it's too hard to put a team together with the hope that you beat 7 or 8 cars in qualifying. What new sponsor or team owner likes these odds?
Then there is the cars and the rules. Leave innovation at the door, not welcome in NASCAR. I miss the day the new guy showed up and kicked butt because he and his team found something out the other big dollar teams missed.
Competition is king. It's like a couple of college kids forming Google to compete against Microsoft and Apple. How'd that work out?