Friday, February 8, 2013

Leader Circle and Start-And-Park

When it comes to racing, money, at times, is more essential than talent, winning and heart.

IndyCar and NASCAR, despite the difference in fan base size, field of drivers, schedule and technology just to name a few things, if there is one thing the two sanctioning bodies share is money distribution. Recently, both series announced changes to how and how much teams will receive.

IndyCar will continue their Leader Circle program which will give 22 teams, $1 million for the full season, which can be viewed as the financial base for these teams to start their 2013 budgeting. NASCAR announced changes to race purses at the back of the field, where from 39th to last place (43rd) each position will be receiving $4,000 less than the position ahead of them. This is planned to discourage start-and-park teams, which have become more relevant since the economic downturn began last decade.

To be honest, I disagree with both decisions.

Let's start with IndyCar. The Leader Circle program has worked out well, giving each entry a base amount of money that they know they can count on and the teams know how much more they will need to complete their budget for a full season. However it does have some flaws. In my opinion, to encourage teams to "go for it" if you will, their should be some difference from the top and the bottom. The champion receives the same amount as 20th in the entrant points. Why? My opinion is the top should reward more than the bottom.

Currently, Ryan Briscoe, a winner last season is on the outside looking in. Leader Circle should have a bonus program for teams that hire past winners and past champions. Depending on how large the bonuses are, this could discourage teams from hiring a ride-buyer, whether it be domestic or from abroad.

With $1 million being given to 22 teams and roughly $4 million dollars being available to the non-Leader Circle teams, a rough, educated estimate of the total amount in the Leader Circle pot is $26 million. My proposal is $1.25 million be given to the top ten in entrant points (total: $12.5 million). Give 11th-15th each $750,000 (total: $3.75 million) and 16th-20th receive $500,000 (total: $2.5 million). So off my rough estimations, $7.25 million remains of that original $26 million.

Bonuses should be given out for the hiring the following type of drivers, winners from the year before and past champions. Last year, eight drivers won a race, seven have rides for 2013. Give $500,000 for each winner in 2012 (total: $3.5 million). Five past champions have been announced for 2013 (Hunter-Reay, Franchitti, Dixon, Bourdais and Kanaan). Give the five drivers $500,000 each (total: $2.5 million). That leaves $1.25 million, which can be split amongst the 19 races and added to the lack of race purses.

While this looks like padding the pockets of the larger teams, it could be helpful for keeping winners in the sport. Briscoe would receive a $500,000 bonus for winning in 2012.

But the ride-buyer situation would not simply go away. For those five teams only getting $500,000, hiring a race winner or past champion is easier said than done. If anything it could encourage the back of the grid to hire a ride buyer. Reforming the Leader Circle program is not a quick fix. Easiest thing to do would be to get rid of the program and bringing back serious race purses to the all event. However, that just not seem to be in the cards.

When it comes to NASCAR trying to discourage start-and-park teams, it presents a unique situation. For starters, what are start-and-park teams doing wrong? The start-and-park teams are not keeping Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski out of the race, hell if it were not for the start-and-park teams most of the NASCAR races would not feature full fields. When it comes to competing, we can debate whether or not these team actually compete in the races they start. Taking away money from these teams is not going to solve problem and shrinking the maximum starting field would just make it worse. All this change does is give them a reason to compete for 38th. 38TH PEOPLE! If there is one thing NASCAR could do is instead of taking money away, encourage these teams to compete in a different way. While most of these teams bring very few crew members to the track, encourage these teams to use who they have to do pit stops. It may take them 30 to 45 seconds but no fan or big wig NASCAR executive would criticize a team for trying as best as they can.