Beth Lunkenheimer · Wednesday May 15, 2013
Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we’re going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!
This Week’s Question: With Sprint Cup regulars winning seven of nine races in the Nationwide Series so far in 2013, does NASCAR need to place further limits on Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series, or is it fine the way it is?
Jeff Wolfe, Contributing Writer Writer: Let them race!
It’s long been an issue among NASCAR fans that Sprint Cup drivers can drop down to the Nationwide Series and dominate. We’ve seen it in years past and we’re seeing it again this year with Sprint Cup regulars winning seven of the nine races.
And maybe it’s an issue this year because Kyle Busch has won five of those races. You know, it’s popular not to like the Busch brothers, it seems. If you have a real reason to not like them, that’s OK. But if you don’t like him just because a lot of others don’t like them, then you should check your thinking. And it is sort of ironic that this used to be called the Busch Series.
But here’s the deal with top drivers when they run in the Nationwide Series and why it’s important that they continue to do so: they set a standard for many of the younger drivers to attain. The question that Nationwide crews and drivers are hopefully asking is “what can we do to be better?” Or maybe, “how can we reach the standard they have set?” Hopefully, they aren’t lamenting the fact that a Sprint Cupper came down and beat them.
One of the best scenarios that can happen during a Nationwide race is when a younger driver is behind a Sprint Cup driver for several laps. It gives the younger driver a chance to learn. They can all talk to each other about situations, watch video of what other drivers do, or even play the NASCAR video games of certain tracks. But there is no substitute for being on the track with the best guys and learning how to act and react to different situations.
One of the marked differences between experienced Sprint Cup drivers and younger Nationwide drivers is their reaction times in accidents. The Sprint Cup drivers, usually simply because of experience, have a better knack to avoid a single car spinning in the middle of a turn. In the Nationwide races, the less-experienced drivers seem to react a little sooner, or sometimes panic a bit and then spin themselves, causing another accident.
This is not to offend the Nationwide drivers or crews, it’s just simply part of the learning curve. The Nationwide Series is an essential part of the NASCAR stepladder. It’s where drivers and crews can experience the high and lows during a race and how to react to them without as much sponsor money or prestige on the line.
When Sam Hornish, Jr. was a bit rushed into the Sprint Cup Series after finding all the success that there was in IndyCar, he was, without question, overmatched in NASCAR’s top level. However, after a couple of seasons in the Nationwide Series, Hornish was more than ready to take over for the vacated ride of Kurt Busch last year and was seriously considered for the full-time ride this year. And I think he should be the full-time guy in the No. 22 Sprint Cup car, but that’s another story for another day.
Hornish has one of the two wins by Nationwide regulars this year. And it had to be a sweet win, because Hornish held off Kyle Busch on two late restarts to win at Las Vegas. So, Hornish has the satisfaction of knowing he beat one of the best.
And that’s a feeling that can’t be beat.
Ellen Richardson, Newsletter Contributor: Limit them!
Promoted as NASCAR’s “minor league”, the NASCAR Nationwide Series is supposed to be the proving ground for drivers with a goal to someday race in the big leagues of the Sprint Cup Series.
Once known as the Sportsman Division, Late Model Sportsman Series, Busch Grand National Series, Busch Series and now Nationwide Series, this division has continued to give up-and-coming drivers a chance to reach for the stars by competing in some of the best equipment available.
As this series has continued to grow and change names, sponsors and even equipment, the one thing that has stayed fairly consistent is that many top-level, now-Sprint Cup Series drivers have used their days off to drive in the Nationwide Series. Whether it be to win a trophy, gain more seat time or to familiarize themselves with a track, these experienced drivers have had the ultimate advantage that very few other drivers have.
Over the last few years, many Sprint Cup regulars are winning more often than those series regular drivers who are hoping for Nationwide wins as well as a chance to be noticed by a top-level Sprint Cup Series team. As previously mentioned, current Sprint Cup Series drivers have won seven of the nine races in the Nationwide Series so far in 2013. Do the math here folks, it is time for a change!
In the last few years I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with several young drivers who have one dream: to someday race in the Sprint Cup Series. While not all of these drivers are lucky enough to now be competing in the Nationwide Series, they all have the same goal in mind.
As Sprint Cup Series drivers continue to race in a lower level series that often competes at the same tracks, the dreams of these hard working hopefuls continue to diminish as the Cup drivers fill the seats.
While there are benefits to having some of today’s popular Sprint Cup Series drivers competing in this series, including grabbing the attention of the fan base for these popular drivers (a.k.a. Junior Nation), how will these up-and-coming drivers ever have a chance to form their own fan base or even prove that they are winners if they are competing against those with more money and the best equipment?
Just a reminder here: the Nationwide Series champions from 2006-2010 were all full-time Sprint Cup Series regulars. If this wasn’t a concern that is currently on the minds of the powers that be in NASCAR why would the rule, implemented during the start of the 2011 season, state that these drivers could only compete for a championship in one of the three national series?
I’m not saying NASCAR should completely ban these talented drivers from this series once and for all, but let’s make this more interesting. If it is more seat time that these Sprint Cup Series drivers crave or more fans in the stands that NASCAR wants, let’s try something different – hold a challenge race!
I guess this is why I am such an avid fan of the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, the Late Model race at Richmond International Speedway. During this race, no matter who the competitor is, everyone climbs in the same type of equipment to compete in what I feel is a true race.
About two years ago I had the privilege of assisting a local late model driver with his effort to compete in this star-studded race, during which this Sprint Cup Series hopeful had an opportunity to pass Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin for the lead in the second practice of the day.
While Hamlin brought home the win that night, I will never forget the excitement on this young driver’s face when he climbed from his late model following his major accomplishment. Let’s have more races like this on a very limited basis and make them a huge deal!
This way these up-and-coming drivers who have a dream to pass those that they have dreamed to either be or race against they can share in the magic that this driver felt, but the Nationwide regulars wouldn’t be losing out on wind and even rides in their own series. Bring back the heart of this series and the true fans of competition will follow!
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