Mike Lovecchio · Monday July 26, 2010
NASCAR should schedule more standalone Nationwide races in 2011
As rumors of schedule and rule changes swirled throughout the garages in Indianapolis this past weekend, one such rumor that appears to have legs and is gaining attention is news that NASCAR is finally doing something about the Cup invasion in the Nationwide Series. While the particulars have yet to be reported, it seems NASCAR will either A) place restrictions on how many Nationwide races Cup drivers in the top 35 in points can compete in, or B) schedule Nationwide races at times and places that make it logistically impossible for double duty. This comes on the heels of a Nielsen Company report showing an 18 percent increase in TV ratings for the standalone Gateway event on July 17.
This is a long overdue decision that, when combined with the new CoT, can help propel the series to new heights. What we’ve been reminded of two weeks ago at Gateway and this past weekend at ORP is just how exciting this sport can be when you put a field full of hungry drivers on a national stage at some of the nation’s best short tracks. By limiting the number of Cup drivers racing on a given weekend or by scheduling Nationwide-only events, NASCAR does two things. In the companion events, those fans tuning in to see their favorite Cup drivers not only get to see them compete for the win, not the title, but they also get introduced to the Trevor Baynes and Justin Allgaiers the sport has to offer.
Maybe these drivers will start to get a following of their own, much like baseball fans track their favorite prospects through the minor leagues. With enough track time, some of these drivers can compete against the likes of Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards. But, while you can’t quite predict how fans will catch on to the new look series, it’s a risk worth taking. With all the talk of change at the Sprint Cup level, this is a change that actually makes sense. So when you tune in next weekend for Iowa, get used to the names of some of the sport’s youngest stars, and maybe find a “minor league” driver to root for. You may not know some of them now… but you will soon enough.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will make the Chase in 2011
Juan Pablo Montoya paced the field once again at Indianapolis this weekend and once again left without kissing the bricks – that honor went to teammate Jamie McMurray. While both drivers appear to be out of the Chase picture, Montoya proved once again that he can compete for oval wins – although he needs to learn how to seal the deal first – and McMurray’s sweep of the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 proves there is no race too big for him to win. While inconsistency has plagued both drivers this season, the team has the equipment to compete against the sport’s premier organizations, as evidenced by Montoya’s Chase run one year ago. With an offseason to reflect on the mistakes they’ve made, I see no reason why Earnhardt Ganassi can’t put at least one car – and possibly two – in the Chase next season.
Ford will win a race this season
A sidenote to Jamie McMurray’s Daytona/Indy sweep is that Ford Racing’s victory drought has now hit 20 races on the year. Despite the lack of wins, however, the Roush Fenway camp has improved throughout the season, and continues to put three of its cars into the top 12 in points. It’s hard to believe the team will go the rest of the season without finding Victory Lane, especially with a superspeedway and several cookie-cutter tracks left on the schedule. The cookie-cutters, once the bread and butter of RFR, have since gone the way of Hendrick and Gibbs, but given what appears to be a resurgence out of the RFR camp, don’t be surprised to see the organization return to form by season’s end.
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