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« Are wrecks essential for racing excitement? | Main | Does NASCAR on Saturday night really hurt local racing? »

NASCAR has made the Nationwide Series championship hollow

By admin | April 25, 2011

By Richard Allen

Apparently, Sprint Cup drivers like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and others had nothing better to do on their off weekend than go attempt to dominate a race in NASCAR’s second series. With that said, one has to wonder if any Nationwide Series regular will win even a single time in 2011.

After hearing complaints from media and a significant number of fans about Sprint Cup drivers invading the lower series races, NASCAR pretended to fix the problem by instituting a rule that every driver had to declare the one series in which they planned to compete for a championship. Drivers are not awarded points when they run in another series.

However, when NASCAR made each driver declare his series, they left a loophole to lure Sprint Cup regulars to enter Nationwide races anyway when they said that owners of cars driven by the top level competitors would still be eligible for the owners championship.

Somehow, NASCAR seemed to think media and fans would not notice that Sprint Cup drivers were winning every race as long as a Nationwide Series regular was atop the standings. The system as it is now is ridiculous.

A quick scan through the Nationwide standings reveals that no driver anywhere on the list has won a single race. Justin Allgaier and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, lead the series with one and two top-5 finishes respectively out of eight starts. Those statistics reveal just how hollow the series standings really are.

NASCAR could have limited the number of starts any driver inside the Sprint Cup top-35 could make. Had they done that, it could have worked out well for everyone. There would be a few Cup drivers in each event as each driver would chose different races in which to participate. There would be fewer Cup drivers in each race which would give Nationwide regulars a better chance of winning. And, track promoters would still be able to advertise that Cup drivers would be on hand.

Or even better, NASCAR could have scheduled more stand alone events for the series. This past Saturday’s race in Nashville was the eighth of the season but the first not run as a companion event on a Sprint Cup weekend. Fully, 27 of the 34 Nationwide races serve as companion races. No wonder the nickname ‘Sprint Cup Lite’ has taken hold.

If enough races were scheduled with the two series’ separate from each other then not only could the Nationwide Series develop a separate identity but Sprint Cup drivers and owners would tire of the travel and potentially missed Sprint Cup practice sessions, sponsor related appearances and other obligations.

For those who would argue that Sprint Cup stars are necessary to boost attendance, all anyone has to do is look at the number of empty seats last week in Nashville with Edwards, Busch and Keselowski on hand.

The bottom line is that NASCAR has not succeeded in providing the Nationwide Series its own identity by awarding a hollow championship trophy. What purpose will it serve to call someone with no wins and very few top-5s a champion when that driver would in reality have placed 6th or 7th under the old system?

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8 Responses to “NASCAR has made the Nationwide Series championship hollow”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Great article and you hit the nail right on the head!!

  2. Justin Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 7:12 am

    I think the solution would be simple. Any driver that declares for Sprint Cup Series points, can earn money and Owners points in 8 non Sprint Cup events. If the driver cant win money, and cant earn owners points, he simply wont want to race in the lower series, with the exception of entering specific events. Some of the specific events could include home tracks for a sponsor, maybe a road course race for a driver that struggles on road courses, the plate races, etc.

    By limiting the winnings, and owners points, you wont have to worry about 1/3 of the field being Sprint Cup regulars every single weeks. More often than not, the field would be dominated by the drivers that are supposed to be in the NNS events…

    Keeping the number at 8, allows the NNS to still sell tickets (the argument has always been that people want to see the Cup drivers for lower prices, etc), but it decreases the odds of Cup regulars dominating the series, increases the odds of NNS drivers winning races, etc.

    If anyone has any tweaks to my idea, or additions, feel free to let me know, I dont pretend to know everything, or pretend to have the answers. Maybe my suggestion is just plain stupid, I dont know. But I figure it is atleast a starting point, and a discussion can follow. Thanks for the article Rich

  3. Bill B Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 8:08 am

    NASCAR took a shot at finding a way to dissuade Cup drivers from dominating the NW series with the rule they put in place this year. Apparently the money matters as much as the championship and Cup drivers will continue to invade the NW series as long as there is a buck to be made.

    Obviously NASCAR didn’t go far enough. The only solution is to limit the number of NW/truck races Cup drivers can enter and, the number of spaces of the 43 car field that can be occupied in any given week.

  4. Russ Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 8:28 am

    All these attempts to restrict or ignore the Sprint Cup teams, and that is what it really is not just the drivers, competing in Nationwide are a waste of time.

    Until somebody comes up with a way to level the playing field, which is unlikely, it will continue. Ultimately the result will be either the series dies, or the Cup teams get tired of playing.

    As long as they can make money the Cup teams will stay. So my money is on the series dying.

  5. Sue Rarick Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Good article Rich…… One point about the Nashville turnout….. It was announced before the race that the old fairgrounds racetrack was going to host races agin this year…. Being like so many with a limited budget we decided to support the old fairgrounds and skip the speedway races. It took a lot of work to keep the old fairgrounds going and the least we in Nashville can do is support it with our wallet.

  6. jerseygirl Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Nice article and a really good idea. NASCAR could have thought this through but like their “simplified” points system in Cup, this is another dumb idea.

    Plus this weekend, we’ll have both DW and his brother Motormouth in the booth at Richmond for the Nationwide series.

    More reason not to watch.

  7. Gail Forrester Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    My position for some time is that Cup drivers do not so much attract attendance as they do sponsors - and that is the key for NASCAR in this economy. Elsewhere I read that only 1/2 of the NW teams racing this weekend have a committed primary sponsor. I have also read that only Hendrick and Gibbs have fully committed sponsorship for their CUP teams this season. Yes, it is all about money, but NOT, as some other commenters above stated, purse money for the double dipping drivers, but money from sponsorship to run the teams.

    Also interesting is that Kyle Busch is NOT driving the #18 this weekend in NW. Kelly Bires is driving the car, because he comes to JGR “with sponsorship attached.” Look at the entry list - Z-line, Kyle’s sponsor is also taking the weekend off, but Bires gets the ride because he has a sponsor and that sponsor’s money to bring to the table for 2 races. So, Kyle gets to focus on the Cup race and Bires gets a chance to drive excellent equipment.

    My experimental solution is to have a NW mini-Chase, with the last 5 races limited to NW-eligible drivers only. No resetting of the points, or any of the other stuff people hate about the Chase. Just 43 (?) NW-eligible drivers, no Cup drivers. This would accomplish 2 things. First, it would increase the likelihood that the NW champion actually wins a race. And second, we would get to measure attendance, TV viewership, quality of racing, etc. on a limited basis.

    Anyway, I wish people would stop blaming the drivers when they are really just the most visible part of the problem, not the underlying basis of NASCAR’s troubles.

  8. loose nut Says:
    April 26th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    This is why Kyle,Carl,and Brad are jokes! Who cares if you win a race against teams with 1/4 the budget of these guys! Stay home,let the real nationwide teams win some of their purse. You guys stink up the show.