Bless NASCAR’s pea-pickin’ hearts. You have to admit that they keep on trying. With both the junior and truck circuits pretty much irrelevant these days due to the inclusion and the total domination of Cup drivers, NASCAR once again is trying to do the right thing.
Cup drivers are already banned from the season finales in both minor leagues. Now those with five years Cup experience, not registered to drive for points, can not race in any of those other versions of the Chase, their regular season finales, or the XFINITY “Dash 4 Cash” events. Still, that leaves Cup drivers eligible to race in 10 of the remaining 21 junior races, along with seven of the remaining 15 truck races.
That means that instead of racing 16 junior contests and winning nine, defending Cup champion Kyle Busch gets to start only 10 times next year. Then he could turn the seat over to, say, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin to fill in for the other 11 rides available. Cup drivers could still dominate for much of the season, though next year they would have to share those opportunities. It is a step forward, but we will have to see if it will be enough to return the spotlight on those who should be showcased in those divisions.
In 29 events, regular XFINITY drivers claimed 11 of them. Erik Jones took four, Elliott Sadler three, Daniel Suarez a couple, with the others going to Justin Marks and Sam Hornish Jr. Eighteen went to Cup drivers, with half of that total taken by Busch, including their Chase race at Kansas. Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson have also won and, with less than five years Cup experience, the restrictions would not apply to either of them. Still, it beats doing nothing but will it be enough to stop the major leaguers from moonlighting to kick some minor league butt most weeks?
This Sunday, the contenders and pretenders of the Cup circuit head to Martinsville, Virginia. A win earns a free pass to race for the title in Homestead next month. A wreck, and then Texas and Phoenix get a lot more stressful. Eight contenders, but only four will be in the running when it counts.
Among our Hot 20, Kevin Harvick has been best over the course of the season. That means nothing come Sunday.
1. KEVIN HARVICK – 4000 PTS
Would have a 37 point lead if season-long points were still the determining factor…over Keselowski.
2. DENNY HAMLIN – 4000 PTS
If you see him in a photo with good friend Michael Jordan, Denny is the short one.
3. JOEY LOGANO – 4000 PTS
Last year, he was the guy to beat coming out of Talladega…and so they did.
4. KYLE BUSCH – 4000 PTS
Four Cup wins, nine XFINITY triumphs, and a pair of truck flags…he will beat up on anybody.
5. KURT BUSCH – 4000 PTS
Harvick was just trying to help me with my contact lenses in pit road. What a pal!
6. CARL EDWARDS – 4000 PTS
Some days you race, and some days you ride. Guess what kind of day he had at Talladega.
7. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 4000 PTS
Eight-time Martinsville winner will duel one more time with 9-time…Jeff Gordon.
8. MATT KENSETH – 4000 PTS
Spent a lovely Sunday with Kyle and Carl, but he probably will need to race at Martinsville.
9. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 2191
Driving a magic dragon last week. Its name was Puff.
10. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2168 PTS
Next year, Kansas replaces Talladega as the elimination race. Good for him, but boring for us.
11. AUSTIN DILLON – 2163 PTS
His last win was back in August in Bristol’s Xfinity race.
12. CHASE ELLIOTT – 2156 PTS
His last win was back in February in Daytona’s Xfinity race.
13. KYLE LARSON – 2155 PTS
Sure, he won back in June in Pocono’s Xfinity race, but don’t forget that Cup win at Michigan.
14. TONY STEWART – 2141 PTS
Down to his final four.
15. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 2110 PTS
23rd in the spring, but second last fall. Time to turn that frown upside down?
16. CHRIS BUESCHER – 2109 PTS
A single win leaves Blaney, Bayne, Patrick, Menard, Biffle, Almirola, and Bowyer far behind him.
17. KASEY KAHNE – 803 PTS
Hendrick drivers have won the past four Martinsville Chase races. Why not another?
18. RYAN NEWMAN – 794 PTS
19. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 717 PTS
Back among the cool kids after a good run at Talladega.
20. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 717 PTS
Second at Martinsville this spring gives hope for this fall run.