Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series · Amy Henderson · Thursday March 23, 2006
There has been a lot of controversy recently about so-called Buschwhackers "" full-time Nextel Cup Drivers running more than a handful of races in the NASCAR Busch Series-and the effect-largely negative-that they have on the overall and long-term health of that series. While it is true that these stars put bodies in the seats, they also attract sponsors away from full-time Busch-only teams, and they bring resources with them that the Busch-only teams can only dream of, because at least part of the problem is that most of them run for Cup owners with nearly unlimited resources and technology.
There is no solution in sight, because NASCAR has refused to address the issue. Some would argue that there is no single, viable solution. But I say otherwise. There are several possible-and easy to implement-solutions. Any one of these would drastically reduce the number and influence of Buschwhackers in NBS races; two or more would effectively return the Busch Series to the teams that put their heart and soul into it each week.
The first solution is to award zero owner’s or driver’s points to any team that has both and owner and driver running for a Nextel Cup title (meaning running the entire Cup schedule). The Cup drivers could still race, but points would be awarded only to the exclusively Busch teams. This would ensure that only a Busch Series team could win the Busch Series Championship. Alternately, NASCAR could simply not allow any driver/owner combo to run for points in both series. Theoretically, this would allow some Cup drivers to field their own teams or run for another owner, or for a Cup owner to have a young development driver run in the Busch Series. It would definitely reduce the concept of using the Busch race simply as extra Cup practice.
The second solution is to simply limit either the number of Busch races that a Cup driver can enter (allow, say, five or six, maybe up to ten for a Cup rookie) OR the number of Cup drivers that can enter a Busch Race any given week. This could be determined through either the order entries are received or through qualifying (the top drivers up to the number allowed make the race, the rest go home), would be relatively easy to enforce, and would still ensure that fans saw a handful of their favorite stars each week.
Third-and the Car of Tomorrow will be a temporary step in this direction-if the cars’ engines and/or body packages were far different in both series, it would take away the "extra Cup practice" contingent running the Busch races primarily to garner information for the next day’s Cup race. I’m no mechanic, and I won’t profess to know what changes to make-but it would be a viable solution when paired with one of the others. Or, run two different tire compounds for each series. Many other NASCAR divisions frequently race with Hoosier tires, which are significantly different from Goodyears-changing brands could be a long-term benefit for the series.
Another rule that could-and should-be instituted is eliminating "locked-in" status to Cup drivers, whether they’re in the top 30 in NBS points or not. Instead, give guaranteed starting spots to the top Busch-only teams, which would allow new Busch teams with young drivers the race experience that they desperately need, instead of being denied when a Cup driver takes a starting spot from them every week.
In addition, the distribution of prize money should be changed. First place prize money should be given to the top-finishing Busch team and so on. If there are 25 Busch teams and eighteen Cup teams in a race, the highest prize money one of those Cup teams should be eligible for is 26th, regardless of finish. The Busch teams are already struggling on less sponsorship money, and NBS purses are often meager compared to their Cup counterparts.
Finally, a viable solution that would improve competition across the board is to institute a spending cap in the Busch Series. Yes, it would be difficult to police, requiring a team of accountants to audit each team’s books-but it would allow and ensure equal footing for all comers in the series. If a team like Roush Racing or Hendrick Motorsports was allowed to have no more resources than a team like ppc Racing-or better yet, one like Curb-Agajanian or Keith Coleman Racing ""then they would no longer have an unfair advantage, and it would be easier for Busch teams to attract sponsors who simply can’t compete financially with Cup money. As a long-term solution, this would be the best way to ensure parity in the series without drastically changing its face.
So, next time you hear a NASCAR official or race team owner say that there isn’t an easy or viable solution, know that there is. The problem is, in order to institute a solution, NASCAR has to first admit that there is a problem, and then put the long-term success of the series ahead of the short-term gains from ticket sales.
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