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Starting grid deals spark review

NASCAR has admitted that it's looking at possibly revising the complex rules surrounding guaranteed race starts based on car owner points.
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.

"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.




Related Pictures

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Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 GoDaddy.com/DanWheldonMemorial.com Chevrolet, leads a group of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series O`Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 5, 2011, in Fort Worth, Texas. [Picture Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]
Danica Patrick unveils her #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for the 2012 season with team owner Tony Stewart following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 4 in Fort Worth, Texas. [Picture Credit: NASCAR Media]
Coors Light Pole winner Carl Edwards leads the field to the green flag in the Ford 400 season finale for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20. [Photo Credit: By Todd Warshaw, Getty Images for NASCAR]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a line of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS qualified for second position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Eckrich Ford, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

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