Names should be made here
NASCAR touts its XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series tours as places where the next group of stars comes from. The current drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all participated in one — or in most cases, both — prior to landing a seat at the top level.
Many of them return from time to time to run in one or both. The rampant trophy snatching by Cup stars from the full-time competitors led NASCAR to implement limits on how often the Cup drivers are allowed to race in Xfinity or trucks.
Still, it isn’t nearly enough.
The past two weeks have provided us all with a glimpse of how good the XFINITY Series can be sans Cup driver interference.
The races at Bristol and Richmond were part of the XFINITY Dash for Cash program. This put them on the list of events that full-time Cup drivers, regardless of experience level, are not permitted to run in.
Wouldn’t you know, they both wound up being pretty entertaining affairs. Granted, both were won by cars fielded by Cup super team Joe Gibbs Racing, but the young drivers behind the wheel are the drivers that should be competing for the win every week. Instead, they all too often find themselves battling for the “best in class” award of highest finishing XFINITY regular.
Usually, that means they finished somewhere between fourth and eighth.
I commend NASCAR for taking steps to make at least some of the races XFINITY regulars only. But why stop there?
First off, this business of allowing drivers with less than five years of full-time Cup experience to participate more than veterans needs to stop. I don’t buy that they need the extra seat time. If a Cup driver isn’t prepared enough, maybe they shouldn’t be a Cup driver.
Additionally, the limits on how many races any driver who has declared themselves to be running for points in Cup need to be strict.
I say five races in any car, with the option to run three more. The catch is that those three subsequent starts cannot be in a car owned by a Cup team owner. Kyle Busch could run five races in a Gibbs Racing Toyota. If he wanted to race in three more, he’d have to do so for another, non-Cup affiliated team. If the Cup owner or sponsor say no, that’s on them.
Cup drivers have long dabbled in the XFINITY Series. But they didn’t always race for their Cup team owners.
Twenty years ago, 24 Cup regulars started at least one XFINITY Series race. Only five of them made a start in a car owned by the same person they drove for on Sundays. This is a huge part of why the moonlighters are so dominant.
The difference in financial capabilities between a team like BJ McLeod Motorsports or Jimmy Means Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing is astronomical. Eliminating the monetary advantage is impossible so the sanctioning body has to be more innovative to level things out a bit.
The next thing I’d like to see go by the wayside is the owner’s championship. Rather than try and restrict owner participation, just do away with the owner’s points. It doesn’t hold any weight outside of sending cars home that deserve to make the race. If an owner wants to win a championship, hire a fast driver.
Only one fast driver, not a group of five drivers used in rotation. When a driver wins the title, the owner gets a trophy as well. The owner’s championship is simply the winning owner, as it should be. It makes a lot more sense than a separate point tally for the car.
I also don’t want to hear owners complain that they will have a harder time attracting sponsors without their team’s big-name stars behind the wheel. With the way most of them are doing business, the young drivers have to bring their own personal sponsor to the table just to get in the seat. For example, John Hunter Nemechek brought Fire Alarm Services with him to Chip Ganassi Racing. The team didn’t use Kyle Larson or Jamie McMurray to lure them in, so that argument holds no weight whatsoever.
There are several other ways to improve the second most popular NASCAR touring series. But implementing more Cup driver limitations is the easiest and most logical place to start.
The XFINITY Series needs to stand on its own.
It should have its own stars, unique cars, and competitive teams. The credibility of the tour almost exclusively lies with it separating itself from the longtime moniker of being “Cup Lite.” The more races we see without MENCS stars clogging up the leaderboard, the better it will be for fans and competitors alike. -Frank Velat
To Be the Best, You’ve Got to Race the Best
The regulations that NASCAR has on Cup drivers racing in XFINITY is fine the way it is, and we need to seriously consider the consequences before banning Cup drivers from the series altogether.
Obviously, I don’t want to see Cup drivers steal all of the trophies from NXS regulars, but NASCAR made a good move in the seven-race limit and banning them from Dash 4 Cash and playoff races. This season is the first with those rules in place — shouldn’t we wait and see how it plays out first before we make rash decisions?
Yes, the races the past two weeks without Cup drivers were entertaining, but they were racing at Bristol and Richmond. The entire Cup field could race in the NXS race at those two tracks and it would still be fantastic races. Ban the Cup drivers from intermediate tracks and we will still have the same boring races with JGR cars dominating.
Sponsorship money drives the sport. If a ban was implemented on Cup drivers, then it would piss off a lot of sponsors. Imagine if you were a sponsor and signed on to get the likes of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney and you end up with Austin Cindric for a full year. No disrespect to Cindric, he is a good driver, but a sponsor is not going to want to spend the same on an unproven rookie as they are on a Cup winner.
Frank mentioned above that Nemechek brought a sponsor with him to Ganassi; that is true, but that company doesn’t support him enough for a full season. It didn’t even support him for the whole Camping World Truck Series season last year. He was winning races and the team was still begging for sponsors. Ganassi would not be able to field a full-time effort in NXS without Kyle Larson attracting sponsors. Larson’s NXS sponsors are still associates on the races where Nemechek drives, so his sponsor is not footing the whole bill.
Brad Keselowski Racing is the perfect example of why Cup drivers are needed in those series. When BKR had Keselowski and Logano running races, it was able to draw in more sponsors. The past two seasons BKR fielded two full-time Truck regulars and Keselowski lost over $1 million a year as a result and had to shut the team down.
In contrast, Kyle Busch Motorsports has continued having Busch drive a truck and the organization continues to be one of the premier driver development teams in the sport.
Would Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, Spencer Davis and Todd Gilliland have found sponsorship if not for Busch attracting them? The sponsors they had all appeared on Busch’s truck at some point during the season too.
Kevin Harvick said last year that if we keep restricting Cup drivers in the lower levels, then one day, Busch is going to shut his team down and leave the Truck Series. I’m sure other owners that benefit from Cup drivers would follow suit. NASCAR is already struggling to keep a full field of teams out there. More teams aren’t going to sprout up overnight.
Another thing that fans don’t consider is that a lot of the drivers in the lower levels want to race against the Cup guys. Jones would’ve never gotten his opportunity had he not beaten Busch in the Snowball Derby. Blaney out-dueled Busch in a Truck and XFINITY car at Bristol, where Busch is one of the best ever. Those two wins were instrumental in Blaney’s promotion to Cup. I’ve even heard Blaney and others say that they wanted the Cup drivers there because they wanted to learn from them and beat them.
If the NXS drivers can’t contend with the Cup drivers now, then how are they going to once they are in Cup? If the Cup drivers are altogether banned, then we’ll have a bunch of drivers move up to Cup without the knowledge or experience and maybe even skill to compete at that level. This is a development series that competes on Cup tracks in order for these drivers to be groomed for the next level.
If drivers want a series where they can go win races without Cup drivers, then go back to late models. There are plenty of local tracks across the country where you can go watch great racing between up-and-comers and wily veterans without the interference of Cup drivers and owners. Fans should watch that if they don’t like the state of NXS, because it is not changing any time soon, nor should it. -Michael Massie
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