NASCAR: Petty questions point-swapping rules
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó Richard Petty spent the last three months thinking the No. 44 Dodge would have a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500.
He found out last week the car would have to race its way in.
Now, the seven-time NASCAR champion is questioning rules that allow owners to transfers points from one car to another ó moves that essentially knocked Petty driver AJ Allmendinger out of the top 35 in the points standings.
“It doesn’t make any difference what kind of rules you throw out there, somebody’s going to figure out the best thing for them,” Petty said Friday. “And that’s what everybody’s done.”
Petty said NASCAR officials first told him in November the Valvoline-sponsored car would be in the season-opening race. Although the No. 44, formerly the No. 10 Dodge of Gillett Evernham Motorsports, finished 37th in points last season, officials expected it would have one of the 35 guaranteed spots after several teams merged and another was sold, eliminating two cars in the top 35 in points.
But deals were made to transfer owner points from two defunct cars to Richard Childress Racing (Clint Bowyer) and Penske Championship Racing (Sam Hornish Jr.).
“We go out and talk to sponsors and stuff, and say, ‘OK guys, we’re in and we’ve got more to sell,”‘ Petty said. “It puts us in a bad situation with the sponsor because that was part of our selling point. And all of a sudden we don’t get in, and they don’t blame NASCAR. They blame us as an organization for leading them down the path.”
Similar deals happen all the time in NASCAR, but the sport witnessed more than its usual share this offseason because of the slumping economy. NASCAR doesn’t allow teams to buy points, but transferring them is allowed in mergers or if an owner buys into another team and brings the points with him.
Still, Petty believes owners are finding ways to stretch the intent of the NASCAR rules.
“They’ve got a set of rules somewhere, but they’ve got them,” Petty said. “We ain’t got them. It was a good rule basically when it first set up because that would give a chance for a new owner to come in and still be involved if the old owner stayed with it. They got completely away from that concept.”
NASCAR chairman Brian France said the governing body might look at the point-swapping rules, but said it won’t happen before the Daytona 500.
“It would be nice if it was a more simple-to-understand policy,” France said.
In the meantime, Allmendinger will have to try to make The Great American Race in pole qualifying Sunday or by finishing high enough in the twin 150 races next Thursday.
“The only place I worry about is Daytona because there so many freaky different things that can go bad here, bad qualifying deal or just miss it by one position in the race,” Petty said. “There’s so many different elements here. Everywhere else you go, you just go qualify. I always looked at it as if you don’t qualify in the top 35, you don’t need to be out there anyway.”