The starting field for Sunday’s Sunoco/Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono will run according to owner’s points as qualifying was rained out. Of note was that only 43 teams registered to start for this race meaning no heartbreaks for teams having to haul back to Charlotte early. The bottom of the field surely looks like there will be plenty of cars pulling off the track before the first pit stop with teams notorious for starting and parking filling out six of the last seven starting positions. The Red Bull team with rookie driver Scott Speed in the #82 Toyota starts in 37th, but the rest of the rides from 36th on down are likely headed for the garage early with those mysterious reported vibrations or handling issues. These include: 36 – Sterling Marlin; 38 – David Gilliand; 39 – Joe Nemechek; 40 – Dave Blaney; 41 – Patrick Carpentier; 42 – Mike Wallace; and 43 – Tony Raines. While these cars tend to just politely stay out of the way are often off the track before they could go a lap down, there’s something that’s just not right about showing up for a competitive event with no intent of winning or attempting to place as high as the team is capable of achieving. Of course, this race is in Pennsylvania and such conduct is all too familiar to some Pennsylvania sports fans as the Pittsburgh Pirates are essentially doing the same thing in trading away all their players with any value to other clubs. To think, early in the season before the fire sale began, the Bucs were looking pretty good.
Is there a solution to the “park and ride’ situation? Is the NASCAR starting field too large? Only in recent years have all races been punched out to a 43 car starting lineup. Perhaps some consideration should be given to reducing the field to several fewer cars for some of the less supported venues. Perhaps the best argument for permitting the “park and ride” entries is that they appear to be relatively harmless, but could padding the field with slackers impact the competitive balance higher up?
How many folks will be heading home Sunday afternoon with fresh new Dave Blaney t-shirts?