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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Turner’s Take: Cup Drivers Invading NASCAR’s Lower Series Must Stop

This is getting completely out of control.

Just when you thought full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers could exert no more dominance over NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck series, think again. Five races into the 2010 Nationwide season, we have four wins by Cup drivers. Four races into the current Truck campaign, I count three victories by Cup stars.

Notice any kind of trend here? Their superiority is now the rule, not the exception, in two series desperate to establish their own identity. And the worst part about it is that Cup guys aren’t just leaving town with the checkered flag and the trophy.

They’re absolutely kicking butt and taking names in the process.

Take Kyle Busch’s Truck win last Friday at Nashville Superspeedway, for example. Busch didn’t JUST win. He started from the pole, led 131 of 150 laps and seemingly toyed with the field en route to an overwhelming triumph. Similar deal for Kevin Harvick, who had such a dominant truck in the previous week’s race at Martinsville Speedway that it was clear from the outset no one had a prayer of running him down.

Harvick has now won two of the three Truck races he’s entered this year and is also the most recent Nationwide winner, having gone to victory lane in NASCAR’s No. 2 series at Nashville a night after finishing second to Busch in a truck.

Sadly, this latest weekend sweep is all part of a disturbing trend where Harvick, Busch and Tony Stewart have combined to win seven of the nine Nationwide and Truck races held in 2010. It’s completely ridiculous and, contrary to what some folks will tell you, bad for the sport when its second and third-tier national series can’t have one of their own go to victory lane on an off-weekend for the Cup Series.

But while Cup drivers certainly bring extra attention and revenue to non-Cup races, their participation is absolutely killing the Nationwide and Truck series from a competition standpoint. These two series are no longer just “Sprint Cup Lite,” as they are sometimes known; they’re merely an opportunity for top Cup drivers to come over and steal everyone else’s thunder.

Thank goodness for Timothy Peters‘s last-lap heroics in the Truck opener at Daytona and that Brad Keselowski had enough sense – for once – not to wreck Penske Racing teammate Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide race at Bristol last month. If either outcome had been different, there would be no Nationwide or Truck Series-only winners this season.

These series were never designed to be a place for Cup drivers to come and pad their pocket books and trophy cases, but rather as a venue for FUTURE stars to hone their skills and eventually ascend the NASCAR ranks. As recent as a decade ago, that process was happening… but it’s not anymore. Gone are the days when a young, unheard of driver takes the Nationwide or Truck series by storm and uses his success as a springboard to Cup. Not convinced? Look no further than the dearth of Cup rookies this season – Kevin Conway is the only one to make every race, by my count – as evidence of this disturbing trend.

Unfortunately, it’s probably too late and teams have already invested too much for NASCAR to set limits on how many Nationwide and Truck races Cup drivers are allowed to participate in each year. But for the sake of the sport, its fans and its future, NASCAR needs to do something.

When Nationwide and Truck series drivers are denied wins on off-weekends for Cup, there’s a terrible problem. Let’s hope it’s not too late to correct it.