The Frontstretch: Side By Side: Should NASCAR Limit Cup Drivers In Nationwide? by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Wednesday May 15, 2013

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Side By Side: Should NASCAR Limit Cup Drivers In Nationwide?

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.

Do the Sprint Cup regulars make this a more complete picture….

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.

…or would the Nationwide landscape be much prettier without the same old, same old up front?

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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sal
05/15/2013 08:05 AM
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Although a few Cup drivers have been running Nationwide (Busch) races for many years…the reason Mark Martin held so many records in that series…it was the regular series drivers that tended to win the championships. The series had their own veteran drivers (Jeff Green, Randy La Joie) who could give the much needed advice to the youngsters. The series used to have it’s won stars, not dependent on a ‘big name’ from Cup to draw fans. But back then, few Cup regulars ran more than a handful of races. It seems to me from seeing the number of fans in the stands for these races that the Cup ‘stars’ aren’t exactly packing the stands. Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole deal and let the series have it’s own identity and it’s own stars and veterans again.

Sammy
05/15/2013 08:34 AM
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Would this question be asked if Dale Jr. or Johnson were running the NW series and winning as much as Kyle?

Or is it the dislike of Kyle that have so many upset?

Keepin’ it real….

Tony
05/15/2013 10:24 AM
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@sonofsam
Doesn’t matter which greedy cup driver it is so give it up with the kyle hating rhetoric. To me it stunk when carl, brad, bowyer, harvick…all of the cup guys needing an ego boost, are or were winning everything in sight. Just like sal the barber said the fans aren’t coming out to watch these cup superstars race every day. Hell why have 2 different series if both races have most of the same drivers. And before you decide to be a smartass I’m not talking about the low budget teams aka start and parkers. Furthermore, it baffles me the way these cup drivers celebrate after winning a busch race, it seems like they have just won a cup championship the way they carry on. Look you greedy morons, you have beaten small, low budget busch teams for the most part, wth a sprinkling of a few fellow greedy money grubbing cup drivers. Wooooo how exciting and what an amazing accomplishment. Wonder how the Yankees would feel if they beat the crap out of one of their farm tems?

Carl D.
05/15/2013 10:58 AM
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I don’t have a problem with cup drivers racing the occasional race in the Nationwide series, and I agree that it can be beneficial to the NW drivers. What I have a problem with is big-money teams putting a big-money cup driver in a car and having them stink up the race, week after week. If anyone thinks that the cup stars help sell tickets, I ask them to look at the attendance at last Friday night’s race at Darlington, or at practically any of the Nationwide races this year. Whole stands are empty. What’s more, the fans who DID attend last Friday night’s race certainly won’t be telling their friends what a great race they saw. How long can the NW series survive like this?

The one exception this year was watching Kyle Larson almost beat Kyle Busch at Vegas. I was pulling hard for Lawson, not because I dislike Kyle Busch, but because the series needs the Nationwide drivers to beat some of these cup drivers and develop an identity of it’s own.

Robin1
05/15/2013 11:22 AM
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Well, at least the Cup drivers can no longer compete for the Nationwide championship. And I agree with Sammy, if it was Dale, Jr. or JJ running in the NW series every week, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Dane
05/15/2013 11:32 AM
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The casual fan would assume Kyle Busch has a huge points lead since he’s dominated the season so far. A look at the standings shows Regan smith with a huge lead and only two drivers in the top 10 with a win. Wait, what?! Allgeir, Kligerman and Bowman – who are they? Basically unknowns because they don’t drive for cup affiliated teams. Major, major identity crisis…

wcfan
05/15/2013 11:43 AM
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Lets not forget that at one time (may still) most tracks FORCED you to buy both Cup and Busch Tickets and fans wanted to see Stars if they were being forced to buy these tickets.

I would much rather the Cup guys race every race as to JUST CHERRY PICK the big money races. I believe NNW teams need to know how many positions are available.

There are many things nascar could do to fix this problem. 1. Limit number of Cup drivers in NNW race, 2. Allow NNW drivers to pick pit stalls before Cup drivers 3. Take 1 set of tires from Cup drivers. 4. Have more NNW/Truck races and less Cup/NNW races.

Don’t forget that alot of times it is the sponser wanting the Cup driver, and as I believe Brad K said these Cup drivers allow the pit guys on their teams to shine and move up into the Cup series.

Bill B
05/15/2013 12:37 PM
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Should NASCAR limit Cup drivers in NW?

YES!!!!! Limit them to 8 starts a season. And no more than 4 cup drivers can be in any race.

I never pull for any cup driver when they race NW. Doesn’t matter who it is. Jr, Johnson, Busch, Kahne, etc.. I never want to see them win in NW.

ginaV24
05/15/2013 01:15 PM
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well, let’s try that again. I think that limiting the number of races a Cup driver can run in the Nationwide series and I like Bill B’s suggestion that there should be a limited number of them, too.

Honestly, I seldom watch Nationwide any more. It was supposed to be a series for the up and comers, now it’s just a playground for the well-funded Cup teams/drivers to drive. Stupid IMO and therefore I seldom watch.

You’ll also note that ESPN has decided it doesn’t WANT to cover the entire Nationwide series. Any guess why? they aren’t getting the return on their $ because fans and sponsors aren’t putting their money into it.

Jim
05/15/2013 01:21 PM
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Yes, limit them to four starts a year. That’s plenty for them to get the extra practice at the tracks they want to practice at. And I also like Bill B’s suggestion of no more than 4 Cup drivers per race.

Old Timer
05/15/2013 02:29 PM
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I live Atlanta and I attend both Atlanta Braves games and Gwinnett Braves (their AAA farm team just up the road) games. When I go to a Gwinnett Braves game I don’t want to see the Atlanta Braves players … nor do I want to see the Cup drivers in a Nationwide race or Truck race for the same reason. I want to see Nationwide drivers in Nationwide races … Truck series drivers in Truck races … and Cup drivers in Cup races! I believe a fair idea would be to say drivers in the Top 35 in points in their series (NASCAR likes that “35” thing!”) can not drop down to lower series (an exception can be made for drivers who, for whatever reason, are “out of ride,” but still in the Top 35 in their series). And, as far as “going to school” by having Cup drivers in a Nationwide race (as another posterd alluded), for every Cup driver in a Natiowide race there is a Nationwide driver who DNQ’d. I would have no rule prohibiting drivers from “competing up,” though!

Zetona
05/15/2013 06:00 PM
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I’m fine with Cup drivers mixing it up with the Nationwide guys every once in a while. What I don’t like is that they constantly get the best cars. Look at JGR at Darlington—their four cars were the class of the field, and all four were current or recent Cup drivers. Not one spot for a rookie.

What I propose to fix this is a ban on “Buschwhackers” earning purse money of any kind. Anyone earning their points in Cup shouldn’t be able to earn money in Nationwide. The purse money that would otherwise go to these Cup guys (in 2012, drivers earning points in Cup made over $6,770,000 in the NNS) instead goes to Nationwide drivers and teams. And here’s the clincher—no organization fielding Cup regulars gets any of this bonus money for any of its other cars. This means smaller teams get the funding they need to (hopefully) be competitive, and it strongly discourages the big teams from running Cup stars.

GinaV24
05/15/2013 09:17 PM
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Zetona, I like your ideas. If they didn’t get the $, the cup drivers would be out of Nationwide in a heartbeat

Steve
05/17/2013 11:18 AM
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As a poster mentioned above, I have also noticed ESPN’s change to show the Cup guys more heavily. Obviously things are not going well for ESPN in that area. Their feature on Montoya at Darlington, who hasn’t raced in NW in a long time, just proves it.

This season could have been one of the best in NW in a long time. The driver roster of the regulars was top notch. The Cup regulars have ruined it and I will not watch when they race. Looks to me like I’m not the only one.

I wonder how much confidence these NW regulars have knowing Busch, Kes, Harvick are racing that weekend. They must get tired of the disadvantage they face every week. Of course on camera they will say the right things, but I’m sure they can’t be happy about it.

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