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New rule has not ended Cup drivers’ dominance of Nationwide races

By admin | March 26, 2011

By Richard Allen

Unfortunately for Ricky Stenhouse, not too many people are aware of the fact that he is leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings. For that matter, until he led some laps in Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, it is often difficult to even notice he participates in the races at all.

Over the off-season, NASCAR handed down a ruling that forced every driver planning to compete in the three top divisions governed by the sanctioning body to declare which championship they planned to seek. This, it was said, would allow a Nationwide regular to win a championship and put more focus on those drivers.

The real purpose of the new rule was more likely to simply calm the protests of those who had complained about Sprint Cup driver domination of the lesser series but not limit the number of races those drivers could actually run. As evidence in favor of this theory look to the fact that teams for which Cup drivers compete can still receive owner points despite the fact that the driver is not eligible for the championship.

If NASCAR intended for Nationwide regulars to receive more attention, the new rule has failed. A vast majority of television coverage is center on Cup stars while Nationwide drivers are hardly mentioned. However, if NASCAR intended for the status quo of Cup driver domination to continue while pushing the folly that a regular is leading the points and thus benefiting from the new system, they have succeeded.

Kyle Busch has won three of the five Nationwide Series races run so far with Tony Stewart and Mark Martin taking the other two. Regulars on the series have managed but eight top-5 finishes out of the possible forty top-5s to have been registered this year. Three of those finishes came in Las Vegas where fuel mileage issues hampered several Cup drivers at the end of the event.

And more, many of the regulars who have placed well this season are closely tied to Sprint Cup teams through owners such as Jack Roush, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Ultimately, Sprint Cup driver domination has continued unfazed by the new rules set in place by the off-season edict. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick were in charge for most of the Royal Purple 300 on their way to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes.

For the Nationwide Series to ever be anything more than a warm up for the Sprint Cup race of the following day, measures such as limitations on the number of races a Sprint Cup driver can run and more stand alone races at non Cup venues will have to be employed. However, NASCAR clearly has no intention of changing anything other than symbolically placing a new name on the championship trophy.

While the powers that be in Daytona Beach, along with their television partners, may feel as though this is the appropriate path, the vastly empty grandstands in Bristol and Fontana of the past two Saturday’s suggest otherwise.

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3 Responses to “New rule has not ended Cup drivers’ dominance of Nationwide races”

  1. midasmicah Says:
    March 27th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Sadly I quit watching Nationwide series races last year and I have not intention of watching any of the races as long as it is basicly a “cup light” series. Although the cup drivers are not in the running for a “cup light” championship, I believe the wins mean the top money. The series has become a joke.

  2. jerseygirl Says:
    March 27th, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I agree, Rich, with your column and with the statement by midasmicah made that the series has become a joke. I watched Saturday’s race because I knew Allen Bestwick would be calling the race. Having Busch win again and having Kenny Wallace continue to make dumb statements about the # of total races won simply because KyBu is running races in all 3 series is annoying enough to me to have little or no interest in watching Nationwide.

    i feel sorry for the Nationwide regulars. they may have their name on the trophy but it will be a hollow victory when they are barely hanging on for sponsorship $ and being able to race from week to week.

  3. Steve Says:
    March 28th, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Did you happen to see all the cars without sponsors this weekend. Of course the sponsor decals were plastered all over the Top 3.

    Nothing at all wrong with the NW series. Sarcasm over.