The Frontstretch: A Mile in Someone Else's Shoes : Arguing For Cup Drivers in Busch by Toni Montgomery -- Thursday September 7, 2006

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A Mile in Someone Else's Shoes : Arguing For Cup Drivers in Busch

Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series · Toni Montgomery · Thursday September 7, 2006


Toni Heffelfinger

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I took some criticism earlier this week for crying about the presence of the Cup drivers in the Busch Series, and I notice I've seen several comments to that effect on my articles recently. So, I thought I'd flip it around and try the other side of the opinion for size, just to see how it feels. What follows, I hope, is a valid argument that the Cup drivers in the Busch Series are not causing a problem and are in fact bringing huge benefits to the series. This is a learning experience, because arguing for these points gives me a chance to really put some thought into them and perhaps weigh the entire argument more fairly as I look at it from the opposite side. Some of these arguments even began as suggestions from fans who truly do believe that Cup drivers have enhanced Busch Series competition. So, let’s try this on for size…

First argument for the Cup drivers in Busch: this is racing, not baseball. There are no rules against Nextel Cup drivers competing in the Busch Series or any other NASCAR Series. There are no rules keeping these drivers from competing in any series at all, actually. Any driver that is licensed by the sanctioning body and qualified to compete on a track is free to attempt the race. That's the way all racing series work: making rules to exclude certain drivers would impinge upon the rights of the competitors to compete and would likely open an even bigger mess. If Cup drivers can't compete in Busch or Truck Series races, how could NASCAR allow Busch or Truck drivers to compete in Nextel Cup races? Take Mark Martin, for example. Is NASCAR prepared to say he can't run a part-time Cup schedule because he runs in the Truck Series? Restricting driver participation also opens the whole issue of who really drives in what series. Is Kenny Wallace really a Busch regular…or is he a Cup driver, since he attempts most Cup races? There’s also the matter of Cup rookies: they need track time, and some compete full-time in both series to get it.

Then, there are those weekends when the companion events are sanctioned by another series, such as ARCA. NASCAR has no say over who competes in races run by another sanctioning body, and it makes no sense to exclude certain drivers from running on Saturday at some tracks while allowing them to do so at others simply because of who sanctions the races. Bottom line, there is just no fair and consistent way to use rules to allow some drivers and exclude others. Using rules to exclude drivers goes against the spirit of the sport of racing in general; it should be the best competitors in the best cars lining up to determine a winner. Having rules to exclude anyone from the field corrupts that concept.

NASCAR would also be doing a disservice to the Busch Series to exclude the drivers that help to draw the fans to the track. Let's be realistic: fans show up to see the stars. They show up to see Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick, not Regan Smith or Kevin Grubb. The crowds at the Busch races just continue to grow because fans get an extra opportunity to see their favorite Cup drivers race at ticket prices that are probably a fraction of what they pay for a Cup ticket. It makes watching the stars of NASCAR race in person more accessible to more fans. Those grandstands are getting fuller and fuller because of the Cup drivers, and not the Busch drivers, no matter how much success (or lack thereof) those Busch drivers have.

This same idea carries over to the television broadcasts, and is backed up by the fact that ratings for Busch Series broadcasts are higher than they have ever been. The reasoning is simple: more fans are tuning in on television to watch their favorite Cup drivers race a second time on the weekend. All of this added attention for the Busch Series both in person and on television can only be a benefit to the series. The fact that the Cup drivers are growing the series and enlarging the crowds makes them more marketable because sponsors can reach a larger audience than they ever could before. Given all these points, it's obvious that the Cup drivers are helping to grow the Busch Series faster and larger than it would have likely done with only the Busch drivers to promote as stars.

The presence of the Cup drivers also benefits the young up and coming drivers working their way through the Busch Series. They are getting to race and test their skills against the absolute best drivers out there on a regular basis. If they are paying attention, the youngsters are also getting a priceless chance to learn from these veterans every week. This can only help them to hone their skills and also to prepare for a possible future in the Cup series. These days, drivers are getting a chance to learn much earlier in their careers than used to be possible before. Face it, it is no longer “normal” to have the time to allow a rookie to learn and grow in the Cup series. Sponsors and teams can’t wait; they need to be ready to race when they get there.

Drivers like Denny Hamlin prove this system is working. He's poised to lock himself into the Top 10 in Cup points in just his first season, and I'd argue that it's not only his natural talent, but the lessons he learned racing with the Cup drivers during his time in the Busch Series that has helped him attain that success.

If some teams or drivers feel they are being pushed out of the sport by the Cup drivers in the Busch series, perhaps if they can't be competitive in the series, they shouldn't be there anyway. Again, this is racing, and the 43 fastest cars and drivers should be the ones who get to race. There is no room for drivers or teams that can't keep up. As for funding, they might have it if they ran competitively enough to get air time on television so they'd be attractive to a sponsor. What company would want to support a car that runs in the back all the time? Plenty of young drivers do successfully move up through the Busch Series ranks, proving that drivers who have the talent to be there are successful even with the Cup drivers present.

OK, I think that's enough. Yes, there are valid arguments to make that the Cup drivers are good for the Busch Series. But I still think that's only one side of things, and I still think there is more to the issue than what has just been said here. I can write up some compelling reasons for it…but I still don't necessarily believe it.

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09/08/2006 09:50 AM


I would like to point out one thing about people go to the Busch race to see the Cup drivers. Many of the tracks have said that unless you buy Busch and Cup tickets you cannot camp outside the track anymore. So what is a person to do. They buy the tickets, maybe go to the Busch race, maybe not. If the Cup guys do run a full season they should not be allowed to win the Series then. Nextel will end up paying with poor drivers moving up. Or going to a different series to get them. It is all about money and that is it.
09/09/2006 06:41 AM

Talk to all the shuttered Busch team….Bace, Akins-Sutter, soon to be shutter PPC, how they feel about losing thier sponsors the the Cup drivers, who while they offer a more sellable face,are killing off the Busch teams that have been in the sport for many years. When the Cup drivers leave the Busch series, say if the cars were made to be different than the Cup cars, like in years past; those old Busch teams wont be coming back.As to your comment”they dont show up to see Regan Smith or Kevin Grubb”, how do these guys ever grow a fan base to help them get to the next level?The number of former Cup drivers in the Truck series is evident as to how the Busch series is today. Those rides the Cup guys use for “test sessions” were the cars they drove while waiting for a good Cup ride to open up. No this isnt baseball, but racing needs a “minor league” to develop young drivers. Open wheel racing has many of these at all levels and thats how the glean their talents, Nascar is doing a diservice to the fans, Im 43 and remember going to Busch races and had a few favorites. It was like getting a completely different race.A cup filled Busch race is just watching the same guys getting ready for Sunday

09/10/2006 01:36 PM

Like Don, I’m 43, and think of old Busch Drivers like Tommy Houston, who never made the big show, but was great to watch. Here’s the deal. The Busch drivers are competing against the $100 million or so that Rousch gets in Cup sponsorship, and they just can’t measure up. David Gilland, being the lone fluke for the year, yes a fluke because he has not done anything except mess up in Cup. I am not picking on Rousch, just using him for an example, substitute any big name cup owner.

My solution, limit the number of times a Nextel regular can enter a Busch race, limit the number of Nextel regulars in the field, and they earn half the posted purse for where tney finish i the race. Take the rest of the money and put it in pool for Busch series drivers. These guys don’t have Brewsters millions, and could use the extra bread. A lot of these guys work regular jobs and drive on the weekends, and have to pay a crew on very little sponsor money. They need the help, so NASCAR needs to step in and help, before the show just becomes a 2-day Cup event.


Contact Toni Montgomery

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IF you want to know more about Toni Montgomery or to see all of her Frontstretch articles, check out her archive and bio page.