NASCAR's rules about car owner points start from a very clear and simple position: points are not there to be sold from one team like some sort of commercial asset, so it can't happen. End of story.

"We don't allow point selling. That's been our philosophy," agreed NASCAR Senior Vice President Steve O'Donnell at Daytona. "Are there some grey areas? There certainly are."

Those points do have indisputable value, since being in the top 35 of the owners points guarantees a start in the next Cup race, with the points from 2011 carrying over to determine the guaranteed starting positions for the first five races of 2012. That's assures the sort of television exposure that companies commit their millions of dollars of sponsorship to get. Certainly when it comes to fielding high profile drivers like Danica Patrick, teams are prepared to do anything they can get away with to lock in a spot on the grid and not rely on the lottery of qualifying speeds.

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"The balance for us is when you look at the top-35 rule, that's hugely important to the owners," said O'Donnell. "We've got to have healthy car owners out there." He pointed to how points and ownership deals had proved crucial to keeping Richard Petty's teams above water in recent years.

The key loophole that is being increasingly exploited is over what happens to the owner points if a team is sold or changes ownership. Under current rules, teams can transfer their accrued points to the new owners - and everyone's starting to get wise to how to exploit this.

That's why over the close-season, Stewart-Haas Racing essentially handed over the ownership of Danica's #10 car to Tommy Baldwin Racing, in order that Danica would be locked in to the Daytona 500 thanks to points won for the team last year by Dave Blaney.

Everyone involved was quick to point out that this hadn't been a case of buying and selling points - because that would be wrong. Obviously. "Those points are Tommy Baldwin Racing's, they're not hers," insisted team boss Tommy Baldwin himself. "She's not getting them from anybody - she's driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing."

"It's not a points swap at all," agreed O'Donnell. "It's a driver coming over that's not been different than other drivers in the past ... Tommy Baldwin is the registered owner of that team. It is what it is."

Tony Stewart, when asked about it, seemed determined not to get tarred with any of the fallout from the deal and passed the question off on SHR's vice president Brett Frood instead.

The deal has confused everyone: while the car is listed as a TBR entry and Baldwin listed as crew chief, in reality the crew chief will be SHR's competition director Greg Zipadelli. Several of the car crew will come from SHR as well. But Patrick won't be allowed to use any SHR-certified cars, and Baldwin will pick up any prize money she wins. Meanwhile, Dave Blaney himself will be sent out to qualify on speed because all the points he won for TBR in 2011 now support Danica.

It's a deal unlike any other previously seen in NASCAR, but there are other equally clumsy deals going on to exploit available loopholes, with Michael Waltrip Racing opting to sell a stake in their #55 car to FAS Lane Racing minority owner Bill Jenkins in order to get the requisite owner points to assure Mark Martin a place on the Daytona grid. At the same time, FAS Lane are trying to get their hands on Roush Fenway Racing's points from the now-defunct #6 car previously driven by David Ragan in 2011. Head spinning yet? You're not alone: it's confusing even the experts.

Meanwhile the assets of Red Bull Racing finally got picked up by a group of Burger King franchise investors, months after the closure of the team and the laying off of all the staff, mainly because the RBR points that the newly named BK Racing picks up with the deal gives them guaranteed starts in the first five races of 2012 (including the Daytona 500) for Landon Cassill, David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil.

That's how big a lure those points really are. But while the current top-35 and points transfer rules are important - and possibly invaluable - for team owners, they're not popular with fans, not least because of the impenetrable regulations surrounding them.

"It's a challenge explaining it, it's a difficult thing to explain to the fans. We get that," admitted O'Donnell. "We are aware where the fans are at on this issue."

NASCAR certainly isn't about to be bounced into wholesale rule changes over any of this, but there's a growing sense of acceptance that the situation has to be tidied up one way or another. "It's an ongoing debate internally," conceded O'Donnell this weekend.

What could change? An obvious measure would be to reduce the number of race grid positions guaranteed by car owner points. With the top 35 cars assured of a start, and champions provisionals further reducing the number of slots, there are fewer than eight positions that can be won on speed alone. Making the grid on speed can often require the car to make it into the top ten in the timesheets to be safe, which precludes new teams and rookie drivers from getting the track time and exposure they need to survive and thrive.

It proved too much for Indy 500 winner and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti when he tried to change from open wheel to stock car racing in 2008. His car slipped out of the top 35 in owner points early in his rookie season after he suffered an ankle fracture in a Nationwide Series crash, after which it was impossible for him to get a sufficient number of starts on speed alone to get the Cup car back into the top 35 to ensure a consistent place on the grid. The Cup team closed down and Dario ended up returning to IndyCar and promptly won another couple of championships.

Other options for NASCAR to consider include a deadline for points transfers to be recognised. "These deals have come together later and later, which is more and more challenging to explain," agreed O'Donnell. "Do you look at a deadline right at the end of the season where we put things in place? That could be challenging for some owners but that may be something we need to look at.

"It's our job to do our best to police those as best we can and feel like we can justify it to the fan base," summarised O'Donnell. "It's got to pass the test for us - there's a number of [points transfer requests] that you all don't see that get denied, which I know is probably hard to believe."

NASCAR is by no means alone in grappling with the issue of teams 'buying' a position on a starting grid. Ahead of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 race, Andretti Autosports' Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to make the starting grid. In order to fulfil the sponsorship deal with DHL, the team ended up buying the race seat of the #41 AJ Foyt car which had previously qualified for the race in the hands of Bruno Junqueira. Hunter-Reay duly competed in the race, while Junqueira had a quiet day at home.