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Woody: Announcers Should Park Their Woofing

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 1 2009
Some of these back-markers in the Montreal Nationwide were soon headed to the pits to park. Not a problem, Larry Wood says.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Some back-markers in the Montreal Nationwide were soon headed to the pits to park. Not a problem, Larry Woody says. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

It was odd to hear Ray Evernham, who started and parked a race team, woofing about start-and-park drivers.

Ray and fellow ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace recently ripped into start-and-park racers, the former declaring: “I take it as a little bit of a slap in the face when a guy wants to come in and just take money out of the sport without putting something into it.”

What, exactly, did Ray “put into it” before he latched onto Jeff Gordon’s coattails and road them to riches? Not everybody is lucky enough to hook their wagon to a rising star. Some struggle to get by week by week.

In fairness to Evernham I understand what he’s trying to say. It’s just that it sounds so condescending to hear the rich dissing the poor. Who’s Ray to criticize how someone tries to scrape out a living? It’s no skin off his nose.

If NASCAR doesn’t like it, it can change the rules. The start-and-park drivers have broken no rules – which is more than some of Ray’s former associates can say.

It would be great if every racer had the kind of first-class equipment that Ray and Rusty were fortunate enough to have during their careers. And when the start-and-parkers can no longer race, wouldn’t it be equally great if they could all land plum jobs as TV analysts?

If Ray cares to peek out the window of his ivory tower he’ll see that the economy is not exactly booming. Lots of lower-echelon teams are struggling just to survive. The “handout” they get by finishing last allows them to keep going.

And the economy’s not to blame for all of NASCAR’s disparity problem. A handful of mega-teams, starting with Hendrick Motorsports which Evernham helped build, are squeezing the little guys out of existence.

Instead of belittling the strugglers and stragglers as Evernham and Wallace did, you’d think they would be more sympathetic. Surely, as ex-competitors, they realize how humbling it is for a driver and a team to show up for a race knowing they have absolutely no chance.

Instead of taking pot-shots from the broadcast booth, why doesn’t Ray go into the garage, tell the start-and-park guys what he thinks about them face to face, and get their response? It’s called journalism, Ray.

I’d like to ask the boys in the booth one question: Do they believe that starting lineups should be limited to only those drivers who have a serious chance of winning?

If so, everybody who doesn’t drive for Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush or Stewart-Haas can load up and go home.

Analyze that.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 1 2009
10 Comments

10 Comments »

  • If NASCAR wanted to rid themselves of the S&P epidemic they would change the payout system so that a truck that parked on the first lap of the Chicago race (Andy Ponstein) didn’t get only $2K less than a truck in the top 10 in the points did after getting caught up in a late race wreck and finishing in the 20s (Tayler Malsam)

  • Dan Mensinger says:

    The time has come for NASCAR to let everyone who shows up at the track start the race. All the cars that start and park should receive the same payout. That way all the little guys and their sponsors can say they tried to race. Makes no difference if they run 5 laps or until the first pitstop. Let them all run then get out of the way.

  • DL says:

    I disagree with Ray, just by showing up with a race car and driver a team “puts it in”!! Has he already forgotten how much that costs?? Until, if or when NASCAR changes the rules, those cars that qualify to make the field have the right to do whatever they want with their cars after the race begins. We will never see the day that there will be less than 43 cars, if 43 purses are offered. If they can’t maintain minimum speed, or have no or run out of resources, they bring it in so not to be a hazard to those still racing. SnP drivers are just as important as “big team” drivers. They want to race as badly as anyone.

  • Greg says:

    Wow, Woody, why so angry? While I agree with you, I must take exception and say that Jeff Gordon is not Jeff Gordon without Ray Evernham in the early days. So he at least has earned some credibility. Rusty, on the other hand is an egotistical blow hard know-it-all (at least his TV persona is that, I have never met him). I don’t think these guys know that their company (ESPN) is directly responsible for start/parkers. ESPN contract requires a field of 43 cars for each race. Unfortunately, the cost of running a team has spiraled to the point that only a chosen few can afford teams. So, maybe if Ray/Rusty directed their ire at ESPN management and demand a change in their contract to allow for smaller fields, then it won’t be an issue. Trust me, RACERS like Dave Blaney, David Gilliland and Joe Nemechek hate having to turn in early, but they cannot fund these teams out of their own back pocket. Maybe ESPN should give these teams money for tires/fuel/etc so they can run the whole race? (yeah, right, I crack myself up!).

  • Marybeth says:

    I believe that what Evernham was saying was that it was not fair to to racers like Morgan Shepherd who would race as far as his tires would carry him, to be eliminated by start & parkers who are not there to race, but will park in a few laps; and the money they get for starting then be using to put down a fast qualifying lap the next week. There should be way to let Morgan Shepherd in the race. He was in the top 35, but DNQs took him out.

    Nascar needs to find a way for a racer who would race the whole race, to race.

    Marybeth

    • bossford says:

      I agree with Marybeth. Morgan Shepherd has been bumped several times this year by the “start & park” contingent. This is totally not fair!

      • Doobie says:

        True, but since when has NASCAR been about fairness?

        The start-and-parkers deserve recognition for making the field in the first place. That’s quite an accomplishment!

  • jeff14theman says:

    Well last i checked Ray just got hitced to his start and park /wreck or blow up driver! And well Rusty has his own Start and park / wreck or blow up driver in his son Steve Wallace! So i think they both need to look in there own garage befor they go picking on other teams trying to make it with next to no money or no good eqipment, just cause they cant silver spoon a ride to someone that does noteven want it as bad as some of the start and park teams….

  • Emil says:

    If I remember correctly, Bobby Hillin, Jr. got his start at seventeen or so years of age because NASCAR did not have full fields of cars for all their Cup races. And that is what, over two decades ago? So it’s not like this situation is new. When the economy rebounds, the S&P’s will be forced out like last time. Also, the last time I researched this, the fastest qualifiers not locked into the field started the race. What would NASCAR do to police the intentions of the team, a polygraph test, a signed and notarized affidavit or what?

  • Ron DeMar says:

    I agree. The start & park drivers don’t do it because they enjoy it, but because they are just trying to survive. Times are hard and the TV guys shouldn’t be so hard on them. Other than that I enjoy Evernham and Wallace.