Two weekends ago, two of NASCAR’s top national series commanded a lion’s share of the attention in the motorsports world when they raced on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt surface.
Not having a seat at the table at Bristol? NASCAR’s Xfinity Series.
As far as Bristol on dirt goes, it should stay that way.
The challenge that the series has had for quite some time is forming its own identity, even if that issue is less pronounced today due to drivers from the Cup Series being limited in taking part in lower national series events.
With multiple teams and pit crews crossing over between the Cup Series and Xfinity, it at times becomes “Cup Lite.” For multiple reasons, standalone races are a rarity these days for the series. This year’s schedule has just one, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 5). Twenty years ago in 2001, there were eight.
One of those was Lucas Oil Raceway, then known as Indianapolis Raceway Park. Sadly, its removal from the schedule after the 2011 season in favor of taking the event across town to Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains one of the biggest affronts in the series.
With one schedule change, the door-slamming action of an iconic short track was swapped for events dominated by full-time Cup drivers with attendance that struggled to fill up the mammoth grandstands at IMS. That’s a lot of seats, and for events like the Indy 500 or Brickyard 400, that’s an incredible venue and atmosphere. A smaller crowd with Cup drivers turning it into their personal playground? Not so much. A driver crossing the yard of bricks in front of a smaller crowd at a storied racing cathedral takes away from an event’s prestige.
For that reason, the Xfinity Series has plenty of ways other than Bristol on dirt to carve out its own identity. Making Knoxville Speedway a Trucks and Xfinity standalone weekend would make perfect sense. As would using the hopeful opening of the Nashville Fairgrounds track as a showcase for the series since tracks such as Myrtle Beach and Lanier Speedway are mere pieces of history. Heck, there are even dirt tracks at Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. How’s that for a possible mid-week showcase for an All-Star Race?
The series is full of tremendous stories and personalities.
Noah Gragson has fully embraced and taken on the mantle of being a villain in the eyes of many and by all accounts appears to relishing every bit of it. You have drivers such as Daniel Hemric and AJ Allmendinger who’ve raced at NASCAR’s highest level and are out to show that they are not defined by a part of their career at racing’s highest level, that NASCAR is more than just the Cup Series. Those are stories that, as has been said here in other spaces this season, make the Xfinity Series some of the most exciting racing in all of NASCAR.
It does not need to ride the coattails of a marquee Cup weekend or fans seeing how many cars a driver such as Kyle Busch can pass within the first 25 laps … or for some of you longer-tenured fans (we won’t call you “old folks”) – Mark Martin. Sure, if you’re a fan of those drivers its entertaining, but it does not showcase the best of the series.
Most of all, when you seek to market the series as, “Names Are Made Here,” it should not rely on factors other than those names that are being made week after week.
NASCAR racing on dirt at Bristol was phenomenal, but simply running all three series there for the sake of doing it does little to provide the Xfinity Series with its own stage.