Toni Montgomery · Thursday July 14, 2005
Since we doubled up on trucks a few weeks ago, we’ll double up on Busch this time. There’s a really good reason for the double. I have something gnawing at me that I really want to talk about. For the second time this season, nineteen Cup drivers ran in the Busch race. And for the first time this season, I didn’t watch the Busch race. As far as I was concerned there was no Busch race going on to watch, only a mini-Cup race.
I was disgusted on Friday night already after qualifications ended. When I looked at the qualifying results and saw twelve of the top fourteen starters were Cup drivers, I was fuming. Congratulations to J J Yeley by the way. He was the Busch Series pole sitter as far as I am concerned. David Stremme started 12th, but he was the only other true Busch regular in the top fourteen. Half credit to ninth place starter Carl Edwards who is technically also a Busch regular but is also a full time Cup driver. Seeing all of the Busch drivers pushed back to make way for twelve Cup drivers in front of them mad me mad enough to spit nails, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was watching Busch regulars drop off the cliff at the back and go home early as they got pushed out of their own race.
There were 53 drivers vying for 43 spots. Every single Cup driver that attempted to qualify made the race. Meanwhile several Busch regulars didn’t. Three of those drivers, Michel Jourdain Jr., Kim Crosby, and Kertus Davis, are Raybestos Rookie contenders in the Busch Series. That’s three rookie drivers who now managed to get no experience on a track the Busch Series will visit only one time this season. If any of the three continue on into next season, they will be at a disadvantage the next time the series rolls into Chicagoland.
Three more of the drivers who missed the race, Mark Green, Tim Sauter, and Kerry Earnhardt, are all Busch Series veterans. Obviously none of them were in cars of the apparent quality of those the Cup drivers were piloting but all three are trying to jump start their careers and get back to driving on a full-time, regular basis and have now missed one more opportunity to race and possibly attract some attention to themselves.
So I was disgusted after seeing who made the race and who didn’t and exactly how those who would race would line up because it indicated to me that Saturday’s race would be more of the same. A bunch of Cup drivers would dominate while the Busch drivers would chase them and try to get the best finish that they could muster. With almost half of the field of 43 being Cup drivers, the odds of a Busch regular winning were slimmed down quite a bit.
When race time rolled around on Saturday, I was watching the Live 8 concert rebroadcast. That was the one where you actually saw the concert performances instead of the interviews and commercials. Just thinking about the qualifying disgusted me all over again so I decided to stick with the concert. I did set the tape just in case but I had no interest in switching from my concert to a mini-Cup race. I already planned to watch the real Cup race on Sunday. The Who and Pink Floyd beat watching the Cup drivers run an enlarged practice session.
MTV being what it is, of course at times they elected to show acts I had no interest in seeing. I’m not a fan of rap so whenever the rappers took to the stage, I would flip over to the Busch race. The first flip was about an hour into the race. Somehow I knew what I would see before I even touched the button but I flipped anyway. Just as I thought. Ryan Newman was leading and apparently had been for at least most of the race. He was followed by a legion of Cup drivers with a few Busch youngsters like Truex or Sorenson sprinkled in. The rest of the Busch regulars were in the back.
Back to the concert. Back to the race. Cup drivers in front. Back to the concert. Finally on one flip as the race was winding down I hit the first occasion when a Busch regular was in front. Reed Sorenson was leading under caution and they were just about to go green. I left the race on and watched as Sorenson got devoured by Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, and other Cup drivers. Back to the concert. I came back again for the end of the race but it was still a Cup kind of day with Harvick and Biffle in front. I haven’t bothered to watch the tape yet. As far as I can see the highlight of the day was the post race sparring between Biffle and Harvick and I already saw that part thanks to a performance by Destiny’s Child on the Live 8 broadcast.
Now I’m not saying no Cup drivers should ever run a Busch race. I have come to terms with the fact that it’s pretty much a given that they will be around in companion events. What I’m saying is the sheer number of them is ridiculous. It made a joke out of the race in my opinion. I can handle a handful of them racing. I can come to accept it whether I like it or not. What I can’t stand is the number equaling almost half of the total field and sending Busch regulars home. Honestly, the presence of Cup drivers has slimmed down the number of teams in the Busch Series to a degree that it’s possible they wouldn’t even have a full field without the Cup teams some weeks so maybe a few are needed but when they are still sending Busch drivers home, it’s too many.
I heard an argument recently about the Busch drivers running in Cup races and it’s a good one. I acknowledge they do it from time to time. David Stremme did it just this past week. On rare occasions, Cup regulars have gone home in favor of a faster Busch driver. Quite frankly, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end by the uproar that resulted when that happened. We have that uproar to thank for the new locked in qualifying system this year. Oddly, you don’t get any uproar when Cup guys send Busch guys packing in a Busch race. Just a shrug of the shoulders and an "Oh well." That’s much the same reaction you get when Cup guys wreck Busch guys but I think that’s a whole other column. But anyway, we are talking about a few drivers here and there running in Cup races. A handful. Which is why I could accept a handful of Cup drivers in a Busch race. It’s only fair. Look at it this way, if 19 Busch drivers showed up to qualify for a Cup race, the world would likely spin off it’s axis from the reaction it got and yet I’m supposed to happily tune in and watch it happen in a Busch race. No thanks. Not this time anyway. It just didn’t work for me.
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