|With the Franchise System even if you are a wanker you are guaranteed a starting spot in every NASCAR race.|
I asked James Hinchcliffe the other day what he thought about the new NASCAR franchise system and he said it worked in just about every other big-league sport and he didn't see any reason why it wouldn't work there.
I'm not so sure. Although they might have the occasional difference or disagreement, people who hold franchises in the NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball all get along with each other because they are all in business together. Maybe they squabble (although I really don't think so) but they keep it private.
Auto racing? You've got to be kidding. The teams in Formula One are always at war, usually over money. Indy car racing has been ripped apart how many times because the owners couldn’t get along with each other. NASCAR worked because the France family owned the business and many of the tracks and if you wanted to race you had to do it their way. With the franchise system, that is not the case any more.
Two years ago — maybe a little less — the most powerful team owners in NASCAR announced they had formed a working group to investigate how they could better be involved in France family decisions on racing rules, cost containment, race scheduling and so-on. That Brian France didn't announce that they were all suspended surprised me at the time and still surprises me. By agreeing to work with this group, France and NASCAR opened the door to the henhouse. Now the foxes are all inside and it's only a matter of time before feathers start flying and things start falling apart.
It's already had a negative effect on the racing. The traditional NASCAR Sprint Cup field of 43 has been cut to 40 and 36 spots are reserved for franchised teams. There is now no danger at all of — say — Danica Patrick missing a race because she didn't qualify well. She drives for a team that has a franchise and she's in, regardless of what happens.
Last night, they ran the two qualifying races for Sunday's Daytona 500. Know how many spots were up for grabs? Two. Exactly two. Once upon a time, when NASCAR stock car racing was an open competition sport, everything other than pole and outside pole was available. Joe Schmoe from Pittsburgh could show up in Daytona Beach and as long as his car passed tech and safety inspection, he could run one of those races and, with luck, maybe snag a spot in the Daytona 500.
Can't happen any more.
And what about the cheaters and cheating that goes on? Before the franchise system, drivers and teams were at the mercy of NASCAR. Remember when Michael Waltrips' team was caught cheating in the final race before the Chase a few years in Richmond (which I think was just smart racing and not cheating at all but what do I know . . .)? Remember that? When a guy was kicked out of the Chase and another two added? It is highly unlikely that will ever happen again. Norris McDonald/Toronto Star