By admin | August 29, 2010
By Richard Allen
Throughout the 1980s the Nationwide Series(Busch Series or even Late Model Sportsman Series if you prefer) ran a few races as companion events to the Sprint Cup Series(or Winston Cup Series if you prefer) and ran a number of other races on tracks the top series did not visit at all. Essentially, the series stood alone with unique tracks and drivers that did not feel the need to do double duty every weekend.
Tracks in locales named Hickory, Rougemont, Langley, Oxford Plains and South Boston played host to NASCAR’s ‘second series’. And best of all was that when the series came to town in those places, it was the biggest thing going. Grandstands were often filled to capacity with fans who were excited that NASCAR had come to their town.
Now, the series is little more than a Saturday filler event for the tracks hosting the Sprint Cup Series. It serves as a means of providing a ticket package deal for promoters who can advertise that drivers such as Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick will race twice at their facility rather than only once.
This year, 26 of the Nationwide Series’ races will serve as companion events. Twenty-five years ago in 1985, 13 of 27 Busch Series races were run on tracks not used by the top division. Only seven unique venues are a part of the series in 2010.
All that said, Sunday’s Nationwide Series race in Montreal was a perfect example of how this series could serve as more of a stand alone circuit in today’s NASCAR. The race had a thrilling finish among three drivers who are not Cup super stars. It was run on a track not used by the top division and contested in front of a packed grandstand.
Why can’t there be more races like that rather than the drivers mentioned above racing at some place such as Michigan or California in front of an embarrassingly empty grandstand?
I am not so out of touch with reality that I do not know the answer to the question posed above is money, pure and simple. Promoters want to sell those package deals to fans and sponsors want to be associated with the biggest stars in the sport, even if only at the lower level.
However, I believe the lower series could develop their own stars if given a chance to race more often out of the shadow of the Cup regulars. There could be even more young drivers such as Trevor Bayne, Steve Wallace and Justin Allgaier looking to make their way to the top. And, more of the likes of Kenny Wallace, Morgan Shepherd and Joe Nemechek could find a home in a place where their talents could shine beyond their Cup years.
Sunday’s side by side finish of the Nationwide Series race in Montreal was one of the best endings in NASCAR this season and it did not involve Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski. And better, the grandstands were filled with people who looked as if they enjoyed getting to see NASCAR in their area.
Instead of looking at the possibility of adding a Sprint Cup date to this place, NASCAR should be looking for more ways to create this type of atmosphere in other places with their ‘second series’.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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