Another One Bites the Dust
On Tuesday of this week, it was announced that Furniture Row Racing had decided that after the final race of the year at Homestead, they will close the doors on their garage and end their time in NASCAR's top series, just a year after winning the Championship. This is also just one year after trimming their operation from a two-care team down to one car. This leaves a lot of people who are making their living in NASCAR without a job. Don't worry about Cole Pearn, Martin Truex Jr., or anyone else currently on the Furniture Row team. Anyone on a team winning races on a regular basis and a year from winning a championship should be able to land a position on another team with relative ease. And the person who they will replace is probably okay as well, but as team members continue to be replaced and trickle down to available positions on lower tiered teams, eventually there will be some folks without seats when the music stops. That is truly an unfortunate effect of losing one of the top teams on the track.
But how does this happen? A year away from a title, multiple wins for the past few years, and decent sponsorship money should be enough, correct? Sure, but only until a piece of that changes, and in the case of Furniture Row, the "decent" sponsorship is no longer there, and team brass Barney Visser and Joe Garone decide that if they cannot replace a departing sponsor, it's time to get the mothballs. The fact is that the sport has just become too expensive, and the days of a sponsor's ability to cover the entire season are all but gone. Teams need millions of dollars from multiple sponsors now, instead of a single source. This all goes back to the increasing cost of the sport, and needing $35 million dollars per year to cover what used to be done with $5 million, and it is driving teams out of the sport, such as BK Racing, which filed for bankruptcy, and now Furniture Row. NASCAR could have, and should have, nipped this a while ago.
So, what's the answer? NASCAR MUST control the spending levels of the teams. This is going to have to be attacked on two fronts.
First, NASCAR needs to initiate a spending cap. What this number would be is up to NASCAR to determine, but it needs to be well under $35 million dollars. Like $20 million. This includes parts to build the cars, tools and supplies, labor for all team members, wind tunnel time, and with the exception of food and refreshments, every other dime and dollar that goes into the operation of that race team. To back this up, NASCAR will need, as a condition of competing, the owners to (gasp!) open up the books. Sorry, but it is long overdue. It is the only way to ensure that teams are remaining under the cap.
The second piece of the puzzle is that in order to control spending, NASCAR needs to control the products the teams are purchasing to the furthest extent. It may take a few years to implement based on research, but no longer will Joe Gibbs Racing, or Hendrick Motorsports, or Roush-Fenway or any other team be allowed to spend $300.00 for something that is available for half the price. That $100,000.00 engine is going to start costing $50,000.00… or less. That over-priced jack is nice. Use it as long as you can, but the next one will only cost half as much. You're welcome. NASCAR needs to research everything, from sheet metal to shop rags, and from tie-rods to tape rolls. And they need to source it all, and supply it to the teams. But we're not talking about the top of the line stuff anymore. We're going economy, and at Crazy NASCAR's Parts and Supplies, we're passing that savings onto the customer!
Everyone pays the same thing for everything. What it costs Richard Childress or Chip Ganassi in parts to build a Chevrolet engine, it will cost Bob Leavine the same. The price tag, however, will probably look a little more familiar to Leavine than Childress or Ganassi. Do not misunderstand; we're not creating a new IROC series. Once those parts are delivered to the various teams, they can do whatever they want to and with them as long as it is within the rule book and within the spending cap.
The first argument is going to be that lower quality parts means less durability and things may break more often, costing teams better finishes. So what? It's even across the board. What kicks Jimmie Johnson out of a race this week might be what Clint Bowyer complains about next week, but it helps control the cost. And who knows, it might get all of the big teams in one race, heaven forbid, Cole Whitt, Matt DiBenedetto or Michael McDowell could win a race. You know what broken race cars do? They make cautions. You know what cautions do? They make restarts. Fans love restarts.
The second argument is that people don't want the referees handing out the parts. Really? It works for the air guns, even though the teams tried to screw it up by using things other than air. Additionally, the last thing NASCAR needs is a scandal in which a disgruntled whistleblower destroys the sport.
This will help level the playing field. Of course, those who are behind now will remain behind until they are able to catch up, and those who are top of the sport will remain there until the others do catch up. Everyone is always yearning for the old days of NASCAR, right? Well, let's turn back the clock on everything, and start with the wallet… the rest will fall into place.