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Cheap cars may be a boon to NASCAR this spring

By Mike Mulhern

   Pssst. Wanna buy a NASCAR car-of-tomorrow? I can getcha one cheap: $10,000 maybe.
   Yes, the current economic struggles that are washing over NASCAR have led to an unexpected supply of cheap cars-of-tomorrow, left over inventory from mergers.
   Early versions, to be sure, but NASCAR-legal.
   So if you want to start your own Sprint Cup team, pick up about five of these slightly-used COTs for $50,000 or so, rustle up some motors, and you can be in business quick.
   Plus, there are plenty of slightly-used crewman out there in the marketplace too.
   That's part of the logic behind Tommy Baldwin's leap from the crew chief's spot atop the pitbox into the front office as new NASCAR team owner. And innovative men like fellow crew chief Richard 'Slugger' Labbe may join him too.
   The thinking: for about $2 million a man can put together a barebones but viable NASCAR Sprint Cup team….and checking out potential purses for modest finishes, such a team could expect to gross maybe $2.5 million.
   That makes the dealing appear to work.
   And it may make this whole car-of-tomorrow controversy vanish, at least in some parts of the stock car garage.
   The COT, though it's been criticized as making for less-than-thrilling action on the track, is a 'common template' race car, and held to extremely tight rules by NASCAR. So a Ford is the same as a Chevy is the same as a Dodge is the same as a Toyota, except for decals and front nose.
   Will this game plan actually work?
   Well, let's see.
   While as many as 50 teams are expected in Daytona in two weeks to try to make the 43-car field for the Daytona 500, there are questions about how many teams will have enough funding to make the western trek to California and Las Vegas the following weeks.
   However, some in the sport think that most team owners should be able to make a go of it until at least the first of April.
   That April 5th race at Texas Motor Speedway thus could be the telling mark.
   But promoter Bruton Smith says he's fairly confident that the U.S. economy will begin to turnaround around the middle of March.
   At the moment, though, many top NASCAR sponsors are leery about just how to commit their sponsorship dollars, until they see how the new administration in Washington kicks off.


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