NASCAR reallocating prize money
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR will reallocate prize money from the last five spots in the field this season in an attempt to make it less profitable for teams to start and park.
"We moved prize money higher in the purse, so if someone's intent is solely to run a lap or two and park, the revenue stream shrinks,'' NASCAR president Mike Helton said Tuesday during an "Autoweek" panel discussion in Detroit.
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According to NASCAR, each position from 43rd through 39th will receive $4,000 less for each position. For example, 39th will receive $4,000 less than 38th, 40th $4,000 less than 39th, etc.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp emphasized this is not a reduction in purses, that the overall prize money in 2013 will increase slightly. He said the money taken away from the last five spots will be redistributed "throughout the remainder of the field.''
"We want to produce an exciting and competitive racing atmosphere for our teams and our fans, and we think the revised distribution provides a better balance,'' Tharp said.
The move comes two weeks after Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith and Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage called start-and-park teams a disgrace to the sport.
"It's a joke,'' Smith said during the Sprint Media Tour. "It's a joke for the race fans.''
Gossage said the redistribution is a good first step, but it doesn't totally address the problem.
"That does not close the loophole,'' he said. "They're [NASCAR] trying to have their cake and eat it, too. This doesn't fix it. It does a little bit, but it doesn't fix it.
"Will we still see start-and-park teams? Yeah. They're making a bunch of money.''
Gossage said start-and-park Sprint Cup teams received more than $600,000 at TMS and approximately $17 million during the 36-race schedule in 2012.
"We're very generous,'' he said sarcastically.
Team owner Tommy Baldwin, who financed the start of his own Cup operation in 2009 through starting and parking, said NASCAR began discussing the reallocation of the purses to teams late last season.
He said it was not a reaction to Smith and Gossage calling for a change.
"He's kind of like one of those mad politicians who gets pieces of paper handed to him before he speaks,'' Baldwin said of Smith. "He has no idea what he's talking about.''
Baldwin said he wouldn't be in position to run full time for as many races as he does now had it not been for start-and-park money. He also does not blame NASCAR for trying to encourage teams to run longer and compete.
"NASCAR is taking the right steps,'' he said. "They did a really good job [with this]. They talked to us about the situation, what their plan was and why they're doing it.
"At the end of the day, it makes sense what they're doing.''
Helton said during the panel discussion that while it is "irritating'' that teams have been allowed to take advantage of the rules for financial gain, he supports teams trying to move into NASCAR's premier series.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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