Tim Andrews' 42 car at Road America. Although the team started to frequently bring multiple start and park cars, small teams like this receive a different type of praise. Underfunded teams like this are keeping many employees inside the NASCAR community at the racetrack and working on cars at the shop. Photo by: Royal Broil / Flickr.com
Starting and Parking in NASCAR has become quite the norm for underfunded teams over the past few seasons. Because of the bad economic climate, smaller budget teams have had to resort to “Starting and Parking” to stay afloat in the financially strapped NASCAR community.
Many teams have used this method with one or two cars. In some cases, a team might have one car run the entire race and have the other park for funding the other car’s race. Never though, has a team accumulated more than 50 start and parks in one season.
Key Motorsports, owned by long-time NASCAR owner Curtis Key, has fielded the No. 40 Chevy in the past few seasons in the Nationwide Series with various drivers like Scott Wimmer and Mike Bliss. The team has had some sponsorship backing in the past but never took that next step into the higher-tier of Nationwide teams. But in 2011, it seemed that Key Motorsports took a huge step back, into the financially strapped bottom-tier of Nationwide competition.
The year started off with Scott Wimmer driving the No. 40 Chevy, the team ran the first ten races with many blank spots on their car. Early in the season, the future looked bleak for the team. Wimmer did have a strong run in the spring Talladega race, finishing 12th, but that’s the best finish the team would earn for the rest of the season. Starting at Darlington, the 40 team started and parked the next three races.
At Iowa, the 12th race of the season, Key Motorsports featured their second team for the first time, the No. 46 car of Tim Andrews. That weekend at Iowa, both the 40 and 46 Chevy would both start and park. For the next two weeks K.M. would bring both cars to the track, attempting to qualify the No. 46 in order to park it and either race or park the 40 car. The 46 Chevy would become a full-time start and park team for the remainder of the season with Nationwide veteran driver Chase Miller.
Starting at Michigan, the 15th race of the year, Tim Andrews moved over the team’s third car, the No. 42 Chevy. Chase Miller was then hired to park the No. 46, which he did for the remainder of the year excluding Nashville where he drove the 40. The 42 team would become the second full-time start and park team for Key Motorsports. Drivers Tim Andrews, Scott Speed, Scott Wimmer, and Erik Darnell, all parked the car in the races they qualified for.
Key Motorsports would end up bringing a fourth full time start and park team to the track on a weekly basis. The No. 47 Chevy at Loudon, the 19th race of the season was where the fourth car would debut. Scott Wimmer, Scott Speed, Brian Keselowski, Charles Lewandoski and Josh Wise all parked the No. 47 car for the remainder of the season.
Over 50 individual start and park runs were performed under the Key Motorsports banner in 2011. That’s not counting the “engine failures” or “oil pump” issues the No. 40 team would have during midrace parts of events near the end of the year. This happened in six of the last seven races of the year for the No. 40 car
On a positive note, Key Motorsports and the rest of the start-and-park teams are keeping the NASCAR world turning. These teams are employing personnel that would otherwise be without a job. Drivers that would otherwise be watching the race from home are at the track regularly and keeping their racing skills sharpened.
Is starting and parking a function of the economy? Or will we see start and park teams forever?
We want to know your opinion of starting and parking. Is it a good strategy to keep small teams afloat? Do you approve or disapprove of their start and parking ways? Should teams be penalized for starting and parking? Will it eventually go away or will we see start and parkers forever? Send your replies to this article to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may post the best responses to our site!
Definition of starting and parking:
For fans who may not know what starting and parking is, it is the practice where teams will pull off their racecar(s) early in the race. They may do this to conserve equipment such as engines or may not have enough money to run the full race (e.g. partial or no sponsorship). Parking the car early helps the team prevent wear and tear to equipment. Teams also can make money from race winnings to pay the salaries of employees or to use towards funding other aspects of the team.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.