Toni Montgomery · Thursday June 2, 2005
Nineteen. Nineteen. N-N-N-N-Nineteen. The number of Cup drivers in the Busch Series race last week was Nineteen. Nineteen. N-N-N-N-Nineteen. That was an obscure 80’s song reference in case you’re wondering but the number of Cup drivers in last week’s Busch Series race really was nineteen. That’s pretty close to half the field and that’s why the Busch Series is vanishing before our very eyes.
I know I’m good for going off about this at least once per year but I sit here and watch the problem grow bigger and bigger despite the fact that I can’t possibly be the only one who sees where this is leading. So you’ll just have to bear with me while I have my annual Buschwhacker rant.
Every week it seems another Cup driver has announced they’ve decided to run a handful of Busch races. They list a variety of reasons for that decision but there are only really two. The biggest reason most of the Cup drivers are running Busch races is track time. With a limit on the number of tests teams can run and the new impound rule cutting track time at many tracks, Cup drivers run the Busch race as a sort of test session to try to learn what they may need to do to their Cup cars the next day. So while these guys are out there “testing” the real Busch teams are trying to run a race. Not only is that not fair to the Busch competitors, it’s not fair to the other Cup competitors either who don’t get that advantage of extra time on track. Which explains why more and more of them are putting together Busch rides.
While that is the main motivation for the drivers, they are able to find Busch rides so easily due to the second reason many are in the series and that would be sponsorship. Thanks to the “only a Busch driver” mentality, a team is more attractive to a sponsor if there is a Cup driver associated with the car in some way, which is usually driving on at least a part time basis. That means even series regulars owners who have tried to avoid being part of the problem have found themselves with Cup drivers in their cars usually sharing rides with young upcoming drivers.
And so we are now up to nineteen Cup drivers running in a Busch Series race. The identity of the Busch Series as a series of it’s own gets lost a little more each day. All of those Cup drivers get in the way of creating star Busch drivers. Once upon a time Randy Lajoie, Tim Fedewa, David Green, and Jason Keller were Busch Series stars. Now they can’t get on TV unless they crash. Maybe that’s partially television’s love affair with the “young guns” coming into play, just like in the Cup Series where veterans are largely ignored in favor of young hotshots. I think the Busch veterans have it even tougher than their Cup counterparts. Not only do they have to compete for TV time with Reed Sorenson and Denny Hamlin, they have to compete with Greg Biffle and Elliott Sadler too.
Sure, the stand alone Busch races are coming up over the summer and then there won’t be nineteen Cup drivers in the field. Then the complaint will be about slower lapped traffic. Why? Because when the cars that are run part time for Cup drivers aren’t in the field, the little teams that usually get sent home will finally make the field. Those teams are usually running on shoestring budgets or just seriously suffering from a lack of track time and are not competitive so they end up getting in the way of the cars that are still fast.
Those cars that are shared between a Cup driver and a newcomer will still be in the stand alone events but they will be in the hands of the newcomers. Some of them have had precious little seat time as their Cup partners have done the majority of the driving so they may not run up to their usual standards. That may create even more traffic for the regulars, but maybe they will at least get the chance to be the stars of their own series that they deserve to be since television won’t have the Cup drivers to focus on.
So what are the solutions to keep the Busch Series as the Busch Series? I’d vote to give the regulars some more stand alone events. Maybe foreign expansion for the Busch Series isn’t a bad idea. At least in Canada or Mexico they can get away from the Cup Series. I’d also vote when they do have companion events to limit the number of Cup drivers in the races. It would be a sticking point for those owners with shared cars who are running full time, but if they choose to do that, they have to accept those rules. Maybe that would be a way to get the newcomer some more seat time too. The ten fastest Cup drivers in qualifying race, the rest sit it out.
Personally I question if Cup drivers should be allowed to run at all most especially on impound weekends. I question if anyone should be allowed to have that big of an advantage over their competition, but I know NASCAR feels that they need some Cup drivers in the Busch races to attract fans. I’d be willing to compromise and settle for limiting the numbers because I know nineteen Cup drivers in a Busch race is too many and if it continues at such numbers, it’s extremely unhealthy for the Busch Series as a whole.
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