Petree Not A Big Fan Of Starting And Parking
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Nashville – ESPN commentator Andy Petree thinks its time for NASCAR to take the “start” out of start-and-park racing.
“I hate it and I don’t think it should be permitted,” Petree said in response to a question about the controversial practice prior to last week’s Nationwide Series race in Nashville.
“I guess if it came down to doing it or starving, I’d do it. But otherwise …”
Start-and-park is the practice of entering a car in a race with no intention of actually racing. Once the race starts the driver runs a lap or two, then pulls off the track and goes to the garage. The team picks up last-place money, and that can amount to a considerable sum over the course of a season.
Team owners who resort to start-and-park tactics say they don’t do it by choice but out of necessity. They are under-financed and claim that they are simply doing what’s necessary to survive and meet a payroll while hoping for better times ahead.
Petree, who several yeas ago was forced to sell his own race team when he lost his sponsor, doesn’t buy it.
“I could still be racing and making money if I wanted to do it that way,” he said. “But it’s not for me.”
NASCAR starts 43 cars in its Cup and Nationwide series, and Petree favors shortening the fields if necessary to eliminate start-and-park entries.
“You could take the money those teams are getting and put it into the purse for the teams that
are really racing,” he said.
“I guess I shouldn’t judge them too harshly because they’re doing what they think they have to do,” he added, “but all I can tell you is that I wouldn’t do myself.”
Last week’s visit to Nashville brought back some fond memories for Petree, whose biggest moment as a team owner was a 2001 victory at Talladega with Nashville driver Bobby Hamilton behind the wheel.
“That was the highlight for me as an owner and I imagine for Bobby as a driver,” Petree said. “It was a huge race and what made the win so great was that we didn’t luck into it – the race went green all the way and we flat out-ran ‘em all.
“After it was over, after we’d done all the media interviews and stuff, Bobby and his wife and me and my wife went back down on the track and sat down on the finish line and just let it all sink in. What a great day that was.”
Those good times didn’t last. Petree encountered sponsorship problems and was forced to sell his team and Hamilton – after building a championship truck team – lost a battle with cancer.
“We went through some frustrating times those last couple of years, struggling to hang on, and I was relieved to get out,” said Petree who prior to becoming a team owner was an acclaimed crew chief for Harry Gant and Dale Earnhardt.
“Losing my sponsor was the last straw. When I went to the mailbox one day to get my check and it wasn’t there, that made my decision easy.
“Today I look back and remember all the good times I had in this sport over the years. I try not to dwell on the bad ones.”
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments