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Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series · Amy Henderson · Thursday November 9, 2006
I've never made any bones about my feelings about the state of the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup owners who are using the series for extra testing time at the expense of the teams who truly want to race the series in its own right, or the costs to compete with these powerhouse teams and drivers. But are Cup drivers themselves bad for the Busch Series?
On one hand, Cup drivers go hand-in hand with the Cup owners. They bring more expensive equipment with richer sponsorship and more highly trained crews. They do get the high-dollar sponsorships for their cars, whether for a full season or a few select races, that the independent Busch teams cannot land, all because of their name. They take purse money too, because their high-dollar equipment almost always trumps the independents' best efforts. Simply put, they bully the independents out of the playground financially.
Then there's driving style. While a few Cup drivers ran for (and handily won, see money reason above) the NBS championship, many more drove in a few-or several-select races. These drivers can drive aggressively for the race win because there are no points on the line, only glory. Inevitably this leads to some racing moves that have the end result of an independent Busch team or championship contender (or two, or more) sitting in a smoking heap somewhere. While that can also be said for the Nextel Cup Series, especially in the Chase era, the ramifications are greater in the Busch Series because, once again, of the money involved. The independents do not have the personnel or the technology at their disposal that the Cup teams do, and fixing cars is expensive, painstaking work for teams that often have to turn a car around for a race a week or two away because they do not have the luxury of a huge stable of cars to choose from. It's one thing when a raw rookie learning the series and its cars causes this damage, another entirely when it's a driver with enough experience to know-and drive-better.
But on the other hand, having experienced Cup drivers in the field every week is a good thing for the young drivers who are now coming into NASCAR's top series with much less experience than an earlier generation gained before racing at that level. Racing an experienced driver who races hard and clean, like a Mark Martin or a Jeff Burton, can only help these youngsters. They learn better car control and better self control when they are pushed to perform in a side-by-side battle or tight draft. They can learn by the outstanding example that a conscientious veteran can provide. Drivers who race hard but race right are at a premium in any series, and their example should be available for the next generation to follow.
And then there are a few Cup guys who, for whatever reason, have always raced better in a Cup car. Jimmie Johnson comes to mind. He's a brilliant Cup driver but has never looked as comfortable in the smaller Busch cars. Jeremy Mayfield and Ricky Craven never showed the comfort level in Busch that they did in Cup either. Simply put, it has to be an ego boost for the small Busch teams and the inexperienced drivers to compete with-and above-winning Nextel Cup drivers. In the long run, it's only good for face value, but it has to feel good at the time.
Does NASCAR have a very real problem with the infusion of Cup money and ownership in the Busch Series? Yes, absolutely. There are certainly drawbacks to having Cup drivers in there every week as well. But the drivers themselves aren't all bad for the series. They have a place, NASCAR just needs to make sure they stay in it and don't overstep their bounds or overstay their welcome.
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Limit the number of Cup regulars allowed to qualify for each Busch race, along with limiting the number of Busch races that each Cup driver can ‘start,’ not attempt to qualify for, could go a long ways towards tilting the racing groove back into the Busch drivers’ favor. Having the Cup guys race in the Busch series is a good thing. It infuses the big names, excitement, and most importantly money into the series. The Busch series is a driver developement series. It’s good for the young drivers to get a chance to learn how to race with the big dawgs. The better the your opponents are, the quicker you are going to improve. The Busch series, however, is not and should not be a series where the Cup drivers can get some extra seat time at a particular track, and earn some pocket change at the same time, which is what is happening now. The smaller Busch teams just don’t have the resources or the developed driver talent to compete and win championships against the Buschwackers. With a loss of revenue from less purse money and loss of sponsorships, these smaller teams are going to fold and you will end up with a true ‘Cup Light’ series. This will lead to ticket prices that will be on par with the Cup races. One or both series will then suffer due to low attendance, ultimately leading to one race weekends, which in turn will hurt the local and state economies around the tracks. Does anyone have anything close to a clue how much revenue two race weekends annually at Talladega brings into the state of Alabama’s economy? Having Cup guys in the Busch series is an excellent way to develope young drivers, but NASCAR needs to do something to spread out the spoils of victory amongst the Busch regulars a little better. There is a lot more at stake than who wins the championship.
although i don’t have any “incriminating” evidence for reasons that a cupp driver shouldn’t race busch there seems to be enough proof in the pudding when cup drivers are repeatedly clogging the top 10’s every race. the busch series has been a division serving a potential scouting source. the only problem is that every scout has to have apecs to find diamonds in the rough as opposed to just race winners. i’m not for the amount of cup drivers that enter busch races for “practice setups” that don’t apply to a car of different specification like the comparison between busch and cup. thanks, it’s gone a little to far now.
I have what may be a novel idea. If Cup boys want to race both Saturday and Sunday, in 2 slightly different cars, let NASCAR start a new national series for the development drivers who are having trouble qualifying against the big names. It would be a darned site more interesting than a truck race full of old tired hides that just couldnt cut the Cup mustard.
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
Piquet, Jr. Wins K&N East Opener
Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.