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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