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Getting Sprint Cup Drivers out of the Nationwide Series Would Require an Overhaul Like This…

By admin | May 29, 2013

By Richard Allen

Shocking News: Kyle Busch has won another Nationwide Series race this past weekend. Well, it’s not really shocking news. For that matter, it’s not really shocking news when any Sprint Cup regular steps down into the Nationwide Series(or Camping World Truck Series) and wins a race.

What’s not shocking is that after one of those Cup regulars wins on the “second circuit” someone complains about it. Actually, quite a few people complain about it, depending on who wins. It does seem as if there are more complaints when Kyle Busch wins than when someone like Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins.

But if people really want to remedy this situation, there is only one real solution. The Nationwide races have to be run in locations apart from the Sprint Cup Series. If you will notice, the most likely times for Nationwide regulars to win is on those few occasions when their series runs separately from the top division.

Two weekends ago, the ARCA Series ran a Sunday afternoon race in Toledo, Ohio which was broadcast by the Speed Network. The grandstands were filled and those fans in attendance seemed to enjoy what they saw as veteran Ken Schrader beat out a pack of much younger drivers for the win. No current Sprint Cup stars were in the race.

What would be wrong with the Nationwide Series conducting races like that instead of preliminary events held in front of vacant grandstands? There are scores of tracks(examples: Rockingham, Nashville Fairgrounds and Indianapolis Raceway Park) around the country capable of hosting such.

An event held at a smaller venue where a Nationwide race would be the top attraction of the season would generate much more excitement in that place than at a big, seemingly vacant track in which the race is merely serving as a side note.

However, there would be some major stumbling blocks placed in front of any complete revamping of the Nationwide Series schedule. Teams, sponsors, tracks, television networks and NASCAR itself aren’t interested in this kind of move.

Teams like being able to funnel sponsors to Nationwide cars as a way to bring them into the sport in a smaller way but still have them be involved with a well known driver. Tracks like having their facilities put to greater use. TV networks like having the content. And NASCAR likes whatever the people who give them money like.

But here is a potential solution that could make at least some of those entities happy and allow the Nationwide Series to do what it was originally intended to do, which is to serve as a development series for young drivers or a place to fit in for older drivers who aren’t involved in the top division.

First, to address the needs of tracks, there is a way to get much more out of a Sprint Cup race weekend than is currently being done. There is a great deal of money tied up in these facilities and the corporations that own them want to maximize the time they have. So, they often stretch each NASCAR visit into three days. This can still be down without the Nationwide Series.

On the Friday of each Sprint Cup weekend, there should be a one hour practice session to lead off the day. Then, there should be a two hour break before a second practice session.

What will happen in that break time? Here is where the tracks would see the greatest benefit from this proposed change. During the two hour break, tables should be set up along pit road and every driver should come and sit to sign autographs and do a meet-and-greet with the fans.

This is a personality driven sport in a personality driven age. Get those drivers out of their cushy million-dollar motor coaches and have them interact with the fans.

I don’t know what the attendance for most Fridays at NASCAR tracks is, but I’d be willing to bet that this sort of thing would drive it much higher. Most fans would likely rather meet their favorite drivers than just sit and watch a one-at-a-time qualifying session.

Second, this proposed Saturday schedule could benefit sponsors and teams. Instead of a Sprint Cup practice session followed by a Nationwide race, the day could start off with Cup qualifying followed by two heat races that would be used to set the starting lineup and determine pit stall selections. Provisionals could still be offered to insure that star drivers make the field.

This would benefit teams because it would serve as better preparation for the actual race than a normal practice session, and it would draw the interest of sponsors who might be willing to get in on the act of backing the team’s Saturday efforts.

Surely TV networks could see the advantage of a race involving Sprint Cup drivers driving Sprint Cup cars instead of Nationwide cars.

As for the Nationwide Series, it would be much better to be in front of a packed grandstand than an empty one, even if the seating capacity of that packed grandstand doesn’t reach into the six-digit range. Look at the excitement level generated by the stand alone race in Iowa, for example.

I believe that a system such as this which separates the Sprint Cup Series from the Nationwide Series would benefit both. True minor league systems work very well for baseball and golf. The fans would love the Friday autograph session with the drivers guaranteed to be there(dock points if they don’t show), and everyone else could see advantages, including profits, if they would just be willing to break away from a system that doesn’t work all that well anyway.


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19 Responses to “Getting Sprint Cup Drivers out of the Nationwide Series Would Require an Overhaul Like This…”

  1. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    May 29th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    I’d love to see the Nationwide guys (or even the trucks) back at the Milwaukee Mile.

  2. Michael in SoCal Says:
    May 29th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Absolutely agree with you. One thing I don’t understand is why nearly every Cup race needs a companion NW series race. Nascar has a number of lower divisions that can serve as a companion race: Nationwide, Camping World trucks, Whelen Modifieds (for Bristol & New Hamshire, maybe other short tracks), the Grand Am series for the road courses & Indy, and even the Canadian Tire series and the K&N series. Spread out the companion races. This would allow for creative pairing of the other series in their own companion races at different venues than where the Cup drivers are (i.e. at a short track).

  3. Robert Green Says:
    May 29th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Like you stated at the outset, NASCAR likes what makes them money and that is dictated by television and sponsors… I like your ideas but I don’t know exactly how you’re going to influence those residing in the ivory towers of this sport…

  4. Tony Geinzer Says:
    May 29th, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Let’s let reputation vs. reputation play. I want to say why not invite IRP, Nashville Fair, Hickory, and Rockingham to Cup or Nationwide, and I know that I’ve been chief booster in that subject, and speaking from the Heart, let’s put Dirt on the Milwaukee Mile so we can see racing from every angle (The Original Unobstructed Seat Stadium) and Minnesota State Fair. Chopping the Pavement for Dirt is the expensive thing, but, still the right thing.

  5. Sue Rarick Says:
    May 29th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Cup drivers have always run Nationwide races. The difference isn’t the drivers but the cars. Years ago people like Waltrip had a small private team with a small crew that built them. They would compete more as a hobby than as a part of a cup team.

    Today the Nationwide only teams are actually competing with full Cup teams. Gibbs or Roush or RCR having Nationwide teams are more the problem than the drivers themselves. Case in point was that when Kyle had his own team they didn’t win as much as they do now.

    Ban the Cup teams from entering and you solve much of the problem.

  6. Bill B Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 6:16 am

    As usual you are preaching the choir again.
    Your idea of stripping NW away from Cup geographically woud be fine. I love the idea of the autograph sessions on Fridays. However, there are many ways the Cup guys could be kept out of the NW races without resorting to separation. The problem is that NASCAR wants those Cup guys in the NW race and until that changes this discussion is an exercise in debating “how many angels can fit on the head of a pin”.
    I will point out that your comment “It does seem as if there are more complaints when Kyle Busch wins than when someone like Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins.” may be a bit misguided. Kyle monopolizes the NW series races. The others run occasionally. Personally I never cheer on the Cup drivers in a NW race. I always root against them. However I can see how some fans are more willing to accept the Cup driver that runs a few NW races a season winning one than a driver like Kyle that runs 80% of them.
    Yes splitting the races up geographically would work but limiting a Cup driver to four NW races a season would be just as effective. Unfortunately NASCAR is afraid to let the NW series stand on it’s own without big name Cup drivers being in the field.

  7. Arnold Decker Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 7:27 am

    I pretty much agree with you on nationwide races.
    One other problem I see is Toyota (gibbs) uses only sprint cup drivers or ex sprint cup drivers. They try to dominate.

  8. Bob Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Nascar took away drivers points, but did not elminate owners points. No points should be allowed when a cup driver runs in NW or Truck races. Another thought is the cup drivers have to start in the rear, this way the fans would still see the cup drivers. The NW drivers would have a much better chance of winning the races this way.

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Great ideas, Rich. The overwhelming prescence of Cup teams and drivers in the lower series is a turn off. NASCAR is so blind to this stuff it is amazing. Apparently they haven’t looked at the number of people attending the races if they think that having the Cup drivers is a draw.

    I’d like to see more autograph sessions, too. Drivers used to be accessible, now they don’t see to be interested in the fans.

  10. John Sill Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 10:56 am

    A surefire way to minimize Cup drivers in NW racing is that any driverrequiring a visit to the Care Center is not allowed to race again until cleared by a medical doctor on Monday. Gibbs, Childress,etc. would think twice before allowing their stars to be sat out a race.

  11. John Cooke Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I remember back in the 80’s and early 90’s when the Busch series ran 4 times per year at South Boston, and 3 times at Orange Co. They also had a big race in Maine during the summer. There were only a few races at Cup tracks and the regulars always put on good shows at those. That is what they need to get back to. I agree that they have lots of tracks and lower series to use as companion events.

  12. The Mad Man Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Eliminate all points (owner/driver/manufacturer) for the Buschwackers. Eliminate them getting a single penny from the race purse. Most importantly, don’t give the Buschwackers a lick of TV time unless they wreck. No TV time would force BSPN to show the series regulars and their sponsors, something that is rarely done outside of a wreck currently. Maybe then, along with geographically seperated races from the Cup series, the series regulars can thrive. There was some talk about returning to Myrtle Beach & South Boston for Truck and Nationwide series. That would make a good start. Maybe if the Daytona Beach Bums would lower the sanctioning fees to a more reasonable level ($500K for a truck race is a bit much) they could get more of a variety of track sizes and locations on the schedule.

    But we must remember, if it makes sense, NASCAR won’t do it.

  13. Old_Timer Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I believe there is a simple solution … rule would be a driver who is in the Top 35 (NASCAR likes that “35″ thing!) in the point standings in their division can not drop down and drive in a lower division (an exception can be made for a driver high in the points, but who is “out of a ride”). I know of no way to police JGR, RCR, etc. from building cars/trucks for the lower the divisions, but who drives them can be easily legislated.

  14. Richard Allen Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    In my opinion, simply having some rule that disallows the Cup drivers from competing in the lower series is not only a bad idea, but it wouldn’t work.

    The big grandstands at the Cup tracks would be just as empty as ever which would cause TV announcers and other media members to whine that without the Cup drivers it isn’t as good.

    The Nationwide Series needs it’s own identity. Running as companion events, no matter who is in the races, won’t provide that.

  15. midasmicah Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I’ll keep this plain and simple. When the nationwide series race is run coinciding with the cup race I don’t watch it. It’s a frigging joke.

  16. Rachel Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Sue Rarick has the right idea. Everybody is blaming the drivers when the dominance issue is really related to the big money teams. Last year Joey Logano won 9 NNS races in the JGR #18, this year Kyle is doing it. But Kyle did NOT win with KBM and Brad doesn’t win with BKR. In fact, if you had an NNS-only format, the big teams would STILL dominate, such as Roush with Stenhouse and RCR with its assortment of Dillons. Maybe it’s time for a spending cap.

  17. Sue Rarick Says:
    May 30th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    One other idea that limits the Cup teams from providing cars… Make all the races claiming races…but only for full time nationwide ONLY teams.

    I wonder how long Gibbs or RCR would be willing to provide someone like Turner with cars.

  18. Russ Says:
    June 1st, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    By running the Nationwide races as companion races to the Sprint series the profits go to the track owners, ISC and SMS. So the odds of Nascar putting races at tracks not owned them going to tracks not owned by them is somewhere between slim and none.

  19. Arnold Decker Says:
    June 5th, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Another idea would be to handicap any car a former
    or current sprint cup driver drives. Like a weight handicap or something, small carb.