Gossage: Pull plug on start-and-parkers

January, 22, 2013
01/22/13
6:20
PM ET

CONCORD, N.C. -- Want to hear a disgusting number? According to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, NASCAR paid approximately $17 million of its combined purses to start-and-park Sprint Cup teams in 2012.

Gossage actually thinks the number, which he discovered in online research, is a tad low. He believes you could call one or two more teams start-and-parkers, meaning they started the race and parked early without the intention of going the distance.

Bottom line: It's time for it to stop.

Gossage believes it's a disgrace to the sport. His boss, Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith, calls it a joke.

Gossage went so far as to write a two-page letter to NASCAR president Mike Helton in December asking the governing body to do something about it. He said he hasn't heard back.

That's because NASCAR officials don't really believe it's a problem, arguing there have been field fillers throughout the history of the sport. The difference, Gossage insists, is field fillers of yesteryear actually tried to run the entire race.

Start-and-parkers don't.

"It's up to NASCAR to do this, not me,'' Smith said during a Tuesday afternoon discussion among SMI track presidents. "But if it was up to me, I guarantee we'd figure it out. I think it's a joke. It's a joke for the race fans.''

Gossage agreed.

"When you add up the Cup, Nationwide and Truck series start-and-park money, it's an inexplicable number that they can't justify,'' he said. "If a start-and-parker brought something to the program, that would be one thing.

"But when they're in the garage in less than 10 minutes, they're not adding to the competition that is three-and-a-half hours long.''

And to the argument that start-and-park teams sometimes grow into full-time teams, Gossage sarcastically scoffed that he is a big fan of heavyweight boxing and might enter the sport at that level.

"This is the major leagues,'' Gossage said. "This is the top rung. You start in Saturday night short-track racing. You don't start here. This is the highest level of the sport.

"NASCAR has to close this loophole.''

How? Gossage would be in favor of shrinking the field from 43 to perhaps 36 teams, whatever it takes to weed out those that come to the track without a full pit crew or supply of tires knowing they'll be pulling out early.

The other option would be to eliminate paying the bottom six or so finishers and give that money to the top of the field.

Either way, NASCAR has to make the call.

Gossage and Smith are campaigning for it.

"For the good of the sport, we've got to do it,'' Smith said.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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