'Start and Park' Racing...broken NASCAR economics.

I know I lost a lot of you with the NASCAR reference, but if you are still reading, you are in for a treat. In a typical NASCAR race, around 40 cars qualify. Some don't finish. I always assumed those cars had mechanical issues and/or a crash.

Turns out, they might have just had money issues. Enter 'start and park' driving. You drive in qualifying - several solo laps to see who can run the fastest. You qualify. Then you start the race, run a few laps, pull onto pit round, into the garage, out of the car, and flip on the television to see the rest of the race for which you qualified.

Sounds crazy. Turns out it is an economic consideration. NASCAR grants points for starting the main race and pays out prize money based on finishing position, even if that finishing position was the result of a DNF (did not finish). So a driver who finishes 36th and runs the race to completion, expending fuel, tires, and parts and risking a wreck may only earn a few hundred dollars more than a driver who pulled in at lap 26 (of like 250) and DNFd at 37th spot. Prize money + costs avoided = good deal.

It is a particularly good deal if you have two cars. You use your main car to race and the start and park car as a cash machine. Second, if your main car crashes or has a mechanical, you swap and permit your start and park car to race to completion. Thing is, that car isn't racing to compete. It's racing to finish. A lot of fun that is to watch.

So start and park makes NASCAR less fun to watch: There are fewer cars out there and of those cars that are out there, the back of the pack is made up of people who aren't really and truly racing.

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