NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? … NASCAR Institutes Kyle Busch Rule

Did You Notice? … NASCAR’s rule limiting drivers in lower series seems targeted at one driver in particular: Kyle Busch.

Busch has become the poster child for fan complaints about Cup drivers taking over in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series. This year alone, he’s won 11 times across both divisions, including the Kansas XFINITY Chase race a few weeks ago, and has led a whopping 2,107 laps in 20 starts. By comparison, over in the Cup Series no one has led more 1,596 laps (Martin Truex, Jr.) through 32 events run.

Busch’s dominance continues to push the envelope on a long list of Cup drivers winning in lower series. In XFINITY alone, they’ve captured 19 of 30 events, including two Chase races and two of their bonus Dash 4 Cash events. But Busch, the reigning 2015 champion, is the most visible abuser; his 169 victories total across NASCAR’s three divisions have him eyeing Richard Petty’s seemingly mythical 200.

That goal just became a whole lot harder, as a closer look at the 2017 rules leave him one of the few drivers affected. The new rules limit only Cup drivers with five or more years of full-time experience; right off the bat, young talents like Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney are exempt from its consequences. Those drivers, while new to the Cup Series, are far from slouches, winning four XFINITY events in their own right this year and finishing just behind Busch in several others. They’ll be free to run as much as they wish in 2017, fighting alongside regulars and perhaps stealing the victories Busch leaves behind.

Other veterans, like Joey Logano, Brad KeselowskiKevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will be forced to abide by the new rule. On paper, that sounds great, like NASCAR has made some major step toward keeping them out.

But for most of them, they’re shrugging their shoulders this morning because the new rules don’t really affect them. Let’s take the XFINITY Series as an example. The new changes dictate no Cup full-timer with more than five years’ experience can run more than 10 XFINITY races if they’re running for a Cup championship. A quick look at the standings shows you who’s over that 10-race limit right now:

Kyle Busch 16

Joey Logano 13

Brad Keselowski 13

No one else is close. Not Aric Almirola, Earnhardt or Denny Hamlin, each of whom has won XFINITY races this year. Over on the Truck side, where the limit is seven races, the list is even smaller: only Daniel Suarez, an XFINITY regular, has competed in more than that, and he’d be unaffected by these adjustments.

That’s not to say this rule doesn’t take some positive steps. Busch, Logano and Keselowski, among other Cup veterans, would be banned from each regular-season finale along with the seven-race Chases in both series. The Dash 4 Cash events, important to XFINITY sponsorship, will also be devoid of these Cup veterans, increasing the opportunities for the series regulars for whom the program was designed.

(Photo: Anthony Lumbis Sr.)
Kyle Larson should have more opportunities to collect XFINITY Series victories come 2017. (Photo: Anthony Lumbis Sr.)

But the rule seems tilted toward branding a new generation of drivers, regardless of NASCAR level, than actually limiting Cup regulars from stomping all over the field. Why? What you’ll likely see with these new limitations is regular season XFINITY races jammed with more Cup regulars than usual; sponsors looking to moonlight with those veterans in a lower division won’t stop based on those changes.

In the meantime, you’ve also cleared the way for a Cup guy like Larson, Dillon or others to stink up the XFINITY Chase. And guess what? The executives down in Daytona Beach are probably shaking their heads and going, “Why not?” The theory goes that if Larson wins, ripping off three or four in a row, it’s another opportunity to get a new name out there people follow on a national scale. Fans have heard the names Busch, Harvick and Earnhardt for well over a decade now. Someone like a Dillon, Blaney or Elliott dominating lower divisions? Now, those are new names fans could potentially get behind, especially when old favorites are retiring (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart) and there’s no firm indication people are jumping from them to follow other veterans. (See: Declining ratings, attendance across the board).

Those youngsters will now get more opportunities, say, with a Team Penske car filled with Cup interlopers that won’t just stop running once the XFINITY Chase gets underway. For example it’s Blaney, not Logano, who would have likely gotten the start at Charlotte in a car that ended up winning the XFINITY race. You know who else was great in that event? Larson, who dominated with 165 laps led. Under these 2017 rules, he’ll be free to take charge in that Chase race all over again.

I understand the box NASCAR is put in here. The sport couldn’t take the more drastic step of banning all Cup drivers, period, because the short-term sponsorship effect in the XFINITY Series could be crippling. But I still think we’ll find, come the end of the 2017 season, that these rules didn’t do enough to keep the Cup guys from spoiling the show just as much as they do now.

Did You Notice? … This Chase may go down as the toughest ever? Rarely have we seen so many drivers equally matched heading into the final four races. There’s a lot of talk this week about how Martin Truex, Jr. and Brad Keselowski, each with four wins apiece, are getting screwed because they’re out of the Round of 8. But who among these drivers would you take out by comparison?

  • Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth): These drivers have dominated the season to the tune of 11 wins, 10 poles and an average of 18 top-10 finishes. They’ve won on every type of track, some of the sport’s major events (Daytona 500, Brickyard 400) and have few gaping holes on the resume.
  • Kevin Harvick: He’s got four wins of his own, including two in the Chase, and a series-best 24 top-10 finishes. The 2014 series champion is also arguably the most consistent driver of the past three years.
  • Jimmie Johnson: Three wins, including one in the Chase, and 363 laps led. This team is also one who prepares exclusively for the playoff format; you wonder how much better it could have done in the regular season without tinkering for the fall.
  • Joey Logano: Two wins, including Sunday at Talladega, and 22 top-10 finishes. While Keselowski has an average finish of 10.9, second best on the Cup level, Logano is right behind him at 11.3.
  • Kurt Busch: Easily the weakest of the eight drivers remaining when you look at his season as a whole. But he still has a win, 20 top-10 finishes (fifth best on the Cup level) and a series high 29 lead-lap finishes.

The bottom line here is there’s no Ryan Newman-esque smoking gun, a winless driver with limited success taking up either Keselowski or Truex’s slot in the field. While both drivers have strong arguments for inclusion, especially in the case of Truex (winning two of the first three Chase races), neither driver would be winning the championship battle in any format. Truex in particular has just 15 top-10 finishes; if he made the Round of 8 that would be fewer than any current driver that advanced except for Johnson.

In Keselowski’s case, while he’d be second overall in the non-Chase standings to Harvick, two of his four victories occurred in plate races (Daytona and Talladega) while the third occurred at a track he’s excelled at throughout his career (Kentucky). Overall, this No. 2 team has used consistency to its advantage while trailing ever-so-slightly in totals like laps led (seventh best in the Cup Series) and average start (9.6, also seventh, only one pole).

Would either driver have been a worthy champion? Certainly. Is it a bummer they didn’t make it to the Final Four? Of course, for both of them and their fans. But the likelihood NASCAR will still wind up with a worthy champion in this year of parity is sky high.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before we take off…

  • With all the talk surrounding the Chase it’s easy to forget Jeff Gordon returns to the spot of his Martinsville triumph last fall. The race’s defending winner, Gordon, at age 45, could be very well running the last Sprint Cup race of his long, distinguished career. Finishing 10th at Dover last time out, he seemed to be getting the hang of the 2016 rules package and should be a force to be reckoned with Sunday.
  • There was so much talk about the Joe Gibbs Racing cars riding at the back in Talladega. But did anyone notice Tony Stewart’s silent plate racing protest? He ran toward the tail of the lead draft all day, never bothered to work up through the field and finished a quiet 32nd. Considering all his Daytona and Talladega wins through the years that’s not how you would have expected this 45-year-old to go out. “I know you guys don’t like that,” he said on the radio while running in the back. “But I know what’s going to happen here.”

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

22 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Robin1

I don’t blame Tony for riding around in the back all day. He has way too many physical issues going on to risk getting caught up in the “big one”.

Bill B

It’s like anything other rule or law. No one would mind if Cup drivers ran a few lower races here or there but when they abuse that right, then a law gets passed to reign them in. It’s about time. And if NASCAR still finds too many drivers moonlighting in the lower series they will add additional laws.

DoninAjax

The chase winner is NOT a “worthy champion.”

janice

as with everything else in na$car there will be exceptions to this rule as they proceed next year.

DoninAjax

Like I’ve asked before, what will the “rule” be tomorrow?

salb

Too bad they didn’t limit the Cup drivers to no one in the top 30 in points. That would have made things a lot more equal.

Keith

They should of made a rule like when you hit 20 cup wins or win a championship in the cup series you are banned from the lower series if you run in any cup races during that season. This way the attrition would be slower and some of the sponsors would not pull out and it would give the top drivers bragging rights of being to good to drive in the lower series.

Dave

Your stupid

SmarterThanYou

Well, the whiners got their way and the “Kyle Busch rule” goes into effect – similar to the PGA Tiger-proofing the Masters. I think it says a lot about a competitor when the entire sport changes its rules to limit his participation and dominance. And there is nothing to prevent JGR from using its other drivers, Kenseth, Hamlin, Erik Jones in the #18 car, so what has NA$CAR really accomplished with this change? Nothing. It will not help ratings or attendance or the level of competition.

The reality is that for every whiner who says he doesn’t watch NXS because of Cup drivers, there are as many or more who won’t bother to watch second-stringers in a battle of incompetence and inexperience.

Rod

LIKE I SAID BEFORE YOU MUST BE A KYLE BUSCH FAN, THEY NEED TO BAN THEM ALL FROM RACING IN THE MINOR LEAGUE SERIES ALL TOGETHER.
DON’T WORRY YOUR KYLE “PEE WEE HERMAN” BUSCH WILL GET 10 WINS IN XFINITY AND 7 WINS IN TRUCK SERIES NEXT YEAR.

leo

How r u gonna come to cup racing and beat a bunch of cup regulars when the only way u can beat Kyle in the lower series is by kicking him out…..u want the experience to beat them?…then stop whining about it and beat them…….

Rod

How can they beat them when JGR are using Pit Crews from Cup Series for Xfinity Races . ANOTHER KYLE BUSCH FAN

Carl D.

This has to be devastating to Kyle Busch, who will now be forced to spend his Saturdays playing T-Ball against pre-schoolers.

kb

I am no fan of Kyle Busch, but people better be careful what they wish for. SPONSORSHIP whether we like it or not makes the world go round..yes it sucks, sucks, sucks..but with the bloated everything in this sport now a days…a necessary evil? Who will put in the expense for a lot of young drivers that this new system is purported to help? Brian and his sister sure are not dipping into their pockets! Why would team owners at this point would invest in the great unknown? I just don’t think this will be the panacea all are predicting, no doubt a good start to see how it goes. I am sure it will be the JGR already established full time Xfinity drivers that will take up “the wins”. So much for the little guy this new rule will help. Time will tell. I’m open. For the record I don’t give a good God damn about Cuppers winning in the lower series, to me the test is on Sunday.

tcfromaz

Well at least they don’t have to worry about an attendance decline. Nobody is going but drivers families now.

Rod

Are you serious you must be one of the few that loves to see Kyle Busch lead every lap or see any Cup Driver beat the Xfinity and truck series regulars

salb

So, how long will it take for the Cup built teams to run each of their Cup drivers in 10 races, thus still evading the intent of the rule?

Rod

They all will do that so this RULE DOESN’T MEAN S**T …..

rg72

The composition of the schedule could also address this situation. Xfinity runs on one oval (Iowa) that does not host Cup races. Make it very inconvenient or impossible for a Cup driver to run an Xfinity race. When Cup is in the early-season West Coast swing, run a couple of races in the Southeast. A crowd of 5,000-10,000 would look much better at Hickory or South Boston than Phoenix or Fontana. Run out West when Cup hits a lot of the eastern and northern tracks. They could even run at a non-Cup track within reasonable travel from the Cup race location. Chances are, you would have few poachers since it wouldn’t serve as a 200 lap practice session for that weekend’s Cup race.
Sadly, NASCAR has locked in mostly companion events for the foreseeable future.

kb

I don’t know…I am torn. I do believe Xfinity is NOT a feeder series, some pretty green guys came into that series extremely unprepared all because they had the age qualifications and a sponsor for that day. They sucked, and it does impact others on the track monetarily. These drivers will never be in the “grooming mode for Cup”. Not everybody is cut out to be a Sprint Cup driver, or an Xfinity driver for that matter. I have never been comfortable with the language that there are just so many fantastic drivers out there being denied a shot by Cuppers. The owners who would pay for them, are paying for who they want, as far as I can tell. And there are plenty of drivers that are well past virgin age making a full time living in the Xfinity series, without any obvious plans to go anywhere. These old dudes got grey hair and kids, young they are not. What about them “hogging seats”? The whole thing is a mess, imo. I also believe that Cup drivers should not be there EVERY WEEK…but is Nascar now telling Owners who to put in THEIR cars? I dunno, good luck to what ever happens with this new rule. With Kyle winning on autopilot in the 18 car, we have seen many other drivers do well in, take the 18 car out of the equation..who was always right there for a win…the JGR DRIVERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not some Joe Jones who got his shot, let us be real on that point.

Dave

This rule is a joke

DoninAjax

So this will be the Kyle Busch rule. That’s OK. The double yellow line is the Jeff Gordon rule.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com

Frontstretch