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Field of 39 cars at Atlanta smallest in nearly 20 years

353 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Matt9975

There will be 39 cars at the start of Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Atlanta, the fewest cars the series has fielded in a race since 1997. Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

NASCAR will have its smallest Sprint Cup field in nearly 20 years when the Folds of Honor 500 goes green Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It is a sign of the times as "only" 39 cars will start the race in NASCAR's new 40-car maximum field, cut from 43, which had been the maximum since 1998. The most recent race without a full field came in June 2014, when 42 cars started the race at Kentucky. The previous time fewer than 40 cars showed up for a weekend came in September 1993 at Martinsville, and the last time a race started fewer than 40 cars was September 1996, when the North Wilkesboro race was limited to 37 cars.
While NASCAR is trying to spin this as a "full field" of its 36 "chartered" cars, it is fighting a losing battle of perception because it allows 40 cars each week. NASCAR would be better off sticking with promoting the core of its new system: granting more money to owners who have been committed to the sport and encouraging competitive race cars.
That is what the charter system appears to be about, and yes, the new owner just trying to break in with a car, an engine and a little bit of money doesn't have a real shot in the new system without sponsorship. Some view it as a sad day, others say this is the top level of competition in NASCAR and only competitive racing efforts should be on the grid.
NASCAR is trying to encourage strong efforts in several ways. The charter teams get dollars from two pools of money based on participation -- a fixed amount each team gets, and then an amount based on its finishes the past three years. The participation money a non-charter team gets is 35 percent of the fixed amount each charter team gets, which isn't enough -- when combined with the money based on finish that is the same for all teams -- at most races to cover the costs of engine, travel, car preparation, entry fees and personnel.
Charter and non-charter teams vie for the same amount of year-end bonus money that goes to the top 25 owners and drivers. Charter teams also have a performance clause -- they can lose their charter if they are among the three worst charter teams for three consecutive years.
The money set aside for non-charter teams that isn't used because of a field of fewer than 40 cars will go into a pool of money that will be awarded to the three top non-charter teams at the end of the season.
So is NASCAR trying to create a system that can't be played? Or have the owners worked a deal that helps them and stunts competition?
Depending on your view, that's why there are 39 cars in the field Sunday. Two of the non-charter teams -- the Wood Brothers and Premium Motorsports -- have sponsorship, with Premium also having extra funding from leasing its charter this year. One team, TMG Motorsports, doesn't have sponsorship but is trying to build a program.

Josh Wise's team, TMG Motorsports, is the only entry at Atlanta without a charter or a sponsor. If Wise finishes 39th, which would be last, the team will likely lose money. Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images

Mike Hillman, who owns the No. 40 car that failed to qualify at Daytona, estimates that leasing an engine -- one that wouldn't run the full race -- would run $15,000, with another $10,000 for personnel, the $4,730 entry fee and two sets of tires at $4,500 puts a team about at the amount a last-place charter team would earn, which is less than $40,000 at most races. To run the full race, it would cost more for the engine plus tires -- and with the tires being different for Sprint Cup this year than Xfinity, buying old sets at a discount might not be an option, he said.
Only if a non-charter team finishes in the top 10 would it be possible to earn enough money to cover costs just to bring a car and run it, Hillman said.
Fewer small teams also could affect the bigger teams, which often sell used parts and pieces to up-and-coming teams.
Brad Keselowskisaid. "I guess I feel like NASCAR is going through its own process, much like the rest of the country is, of trying to decide whether we want to be capitalists or socialists and some days each one sounds good."
Pockrass: Is NASCAR coming up short?
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There's no positive way to spin it. You lower the field by three entries and you can't fill it in the first true race of the season. This won't be the last time this happens this season.
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I was all for the smaller field, and there's no denying many NASCAR fans were also. These smaller teams allowed themselves to be put into this situation. Showing up without tires, a pit crew or any intention of racing at all.
The ship has so many holes in it and instead of either bailing out the water or fixing the holes NASCAR has just decided to take a sledge hammer to the remaining intact pieces of the boat to see if somehow that fixes the problems.
I like it, teams like wood brothers will 100% be in, and they made it so you cant
show up as a start and park field filler successfully, nothing bad I see

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There are the haves and the have nots right now, but there enough of the haves to keep it going. Yes MWR closed up shop but the other big guys have added a couple of teams. the small teams are the ones that are gone, the real time to worry is if big teams get out. Other than the little guy having a shot to develop its a non story.
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