The era of Sprint Cup drivers moonlighting for the majority of XFINITY and Truck Series races will be curtailed somewhat in 2017.
NASCAR announced new rules Wednesday limiting the number of races its top-tier Cup drivers will be able to participate in the minor leagues.
Under the new rules, slated to start in February, full-time Cup drivers with more than five years of full-time experience will be limited to 10 XFINITY and seven Truck Series races per year. Those drivers are also banned from running at all in the seven-race postseason Chase for each division. Cup veterans are also banned from the regular-season finale in each series, along with the four Dash 4 Cash races in XFINITY designed to highlight the success of full-time drivers in major events.
NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy, who made clear to NASCAR.com this change “was not a new discussion,” said the sanctioning body is excited to clear the way for full-time XFINITY and Truck series drivers to enjoy more success in their division.
“You see the desire and the calling of the fan base to say, ‘we’re interested in who’s coming up through the system, we want to hear the stories, we want to understand who these drivers are,’ so that they can begin to formulate and build their future roster of drivers that they root for,” he said. “It’s on us to make sure that we find the right balance, as the league, to say that there is some level of participation by Cup drivers in Truck and XFINITY and what that balance is.”
The rule has a direct effect on Kyle Busch, who leads the way among Cup drivers with nine XFINITY wins this season, including the most recent Chase event at Kansas. Under the new system, he’d be limited to just 10 XFINITY starts in 21 races and none after the Darlington event in early September.
There are a number of Cup drivers who won’t be affected by the rule yet. Cup rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, young talents Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon along with Matt DiBenedetto are among those who can cross over without penalty.
The changes also allow for exceptions, full-time Cup drivers choosing to run for the Chase championship in a lower series. JJ Yeley, Elliott Sadler and Morgan Shepherd are among those going that route.
But NASCAR hopes the changes lead to a continued reduction of its superstars dipping down into lower series. The move follows a 2011 change that forces drivers to run for points in only one of its top three divisions: Cup, XFINITY or Trucks. That prevented full-time Cup drivers from winning the championship in lower series.