XFINITY Series Could Also Benefit From Limiting Number of Cup Drivers Per Race

by Joseph Shelton On Thu, Aug. 10, 2017

Photo Credit: TIm Jarrold

NASCAR recently announced that they will be further limiting the number of races in the XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series that Cup drivers can attempt. This will go a long way toward helping the regulars in those divisions stand out and ultimately decide the championship properly amongst themselves. This is good news for the regulars, as many who have been deprived of succeeding on track will now have a chance to shine, with drivers like Brennan Poole, Blake Koch, and Brandon Jones all finally able to show the rest of the NASCAR world what they can do.

However, in the events where Cup drivers such as Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano compete, it’s always noticeable that they’re the ones who immediately run to the front and dominate, leaving the regulars behind. At one point during Saturday’s XFINITY event at Watkins Glen, the top-six were all Cup drivers (Busch, Larson, Logano, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, and Paul Menard). In the end, Busch took yet another checkered. Meanwhile, the highest finishing regular was Justin Allgaier in fourth. The next regular was Brendan Gaughan, who finished ninth.

This isn’t a respectable statistic for a division that boasts how “Names Are Made Here.” How does one “make a name” by running fourth, ninth, and 12th on a weekly basis? Ticket sales and attendance are down and have been declining since the other two national touring divisions in NASCAR became feeder series instead of having their own identity. This is why that, along with limiting Cup attempts in the XFINITY/CWTS, the number of Cup drivers who do compete should also be limited as well.

By limiting the amount of Cup drivers in a XFINITY/CWTS race, other drivers on the rise can have a chance to shine as well. Ryan Preece, the winner at the standalone Iowa XFINITY event in July, wouldn’t have had to wait as long as he did to show how capable he was behind the wheel if Joe Gibbs Racing was forced to take a look at him earlier. Drivers, in general, wouldn’t have had to wait so long and languish in the dark before eventually giving up. NASCAR would be seeing new faces and sponsors and wouldn’t have to worry about diminishing field numbers and trying to drag fans to the track.

This is an old argument, but remember the Busch Series (now XFINITY) of the 90s’? Take 20 years ago, in 1997, for example. In 30 races, five Cup drivers won 13 races. In 1996, in 26 races, four Cup drivers won 11 races. Moving forward to 1998, in 31 events, five Cup drivers won nine races. Although the numbers in ’96 and ’97 seem like a lot, truth be told they weren’t winning over half of the races. In the 2017 XFINITY Series meanwhile, three regulars have won five races in 20 races. That number will change once the playoffs kick off next month, but it’s still a glaring thing to see.

It’s not that the Cup drivers should get out and stay out of the XFINITY Series and CWTS. Instead, it’s that they’re playing in the minor leagues and stealing the show. MLB players don’t drop to the MiLB to play for fun. NFL players don’t go to indoor football games and try to steal the show or look to play in the NCAA again just for kicks. So why is it okay for Cup drivers to take over XFINITY and Truck Series events?

It isn’t. Competing in them is one thing, but taking over the whole show is another thing entirely and should be dealt with. Say, limit the amount of Cup drivers per race to four. Details such as equipment can be discussed later, although it is prudent to bring up the brief period in the late 00s’ when drivers such as Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle were racing for Brewco Motorsports in the Busch Series, Brewco being an organization that was primarily a Busch Series staple.

Earlier this season the argument was made that Cup drivers in the XFINITY Series and Truck Series “brought sponsorship and funds” to those divisions. One has to wonder where those efforts really show, or if they even really benefit the series. Therefore, stating the obvious, why should that be an excuse for them? The funds and sponsorship excuse isn’t a valid claim, especially when other drivers are left in the dust. So why should the division(s) still cater to the Cup stars?

When in doubt, look at both standalone Iowa events in the XFINITY Series this year. Names that don’t normally run up front were stealing the show. No Cup drivers to pollute the ranks. That said, we need more races like that in the XFINITY Series if we want to make the XFINITY Series/CWTS great again.

** The opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the publisher. All comments other than website related problems need to be directed to the author. (c)SpeedwayMedia.com. **
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  1. Larry Brooks says:

    They used to say one of the reasons NASCAR liked the Cup drivers running in the lower series was because it attracted more attendance and viewership on TV. And I have no doubt there was a time when it did.

    But now that Kyle Busch wins almost every race he enters in those lower-tier series, that theory no longer holds water. Attendance and viewership are way, way down and I believe we all know why.

    I, for one, along with a lot of race fans I know have quit watching ANY Truck or Xfinity Series races Kyle Busch competes in. In fact, I don’t even watch the practice or qualifying for any of the races he is to be in. And, apparently, so are a lot of other people.

    And, folks, you can’t honestly believe his race vehicles in those two series are totally legal. No vehicle can be that much faster every week at every track as his are. Either the inspectors are turning a blind eye to what is going on or they are too damn stupid to figure it out.

    Kyle, I’ll be glad when you reach number 100 so you can quit ruining NASCAR’s lower two series. But, then again, I’ll believe he does that when I see it!

  2. erskpack says:

    Back in the 80s and early 90s, there were quite a few Cup drivers racing in BGN and the Trucks when they first started. However, most of those cars were owned by the Cup drivers themselves or by BGN only owners. You had Mark Martin driving for Bill Davis, Harry Gant driver for Ed Whitaker, Waltrip and Earnhardt driving for themselves. There were some Cup owners (Rick Hendrick, Chuck Rider) that ran some races with Cup drivers, but they were no where close to the full schedule. Then in 1992 Jack Roush started his BGN program and that’s where it started to take off.

    Then as the late 90s came around and we got to the 2000s, NASCAR began moving many of the stand alone BGN and Truck events away from the small tracks. The local series tracks couldn’t hold that many people and NASCAR saw they could have bigger crowds as companion events to the Cup series. That worked fairly well until the late 2000s, and now that move seems detrimental.

    Moving these races away from being companion events and back to the short tracks around the country would be a huge first step. Unless they elected to fly back and forth, this would prevent many of the Cup drivers from being able to participate due to their commitments in another state.

    Though I like the idea of limiting Cup drivers participation, they still have the ability to spread out their events among all the drivers, and essentially be able to lay out a plan to sweep every race. Another potential move could be to limit the Cup owners participation in the BGN and Truck series – say to 4 cars/trucks total across all three series. This way many of the Cup drivers could still run many of the BGN and Truck races, but for many it would have to be for a BGN or Truck only team. This could potentially allow for the success to return to smaller teams like we used to see with Bill Davis, Ed Whitaker, Brewco, James Finch, etc. This could also force the successful Cup drivers to reinvest in the lower series like DW and Earnhardt were doing, and that Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are doing now.

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