Since the 2014 NASCAR season kicked off at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway back in late February, there’s been talk of NASCAR considering ways of limited the number of Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events. While there are a handful of drivers, led by Kyle Busch, running Truck Series race here and there, the problem seems to be predominantly Sprint Cuppers practically taking over the Nationwide circuit.
In the two Nationwide races so far, one has been won by a Sprint Cup regular, with the aforementioned Busch celebrating in victory lane after last weekend’s Blue Jeans Go Green 200 Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. In a rare turn of events at Daytona, though, Regan Smith, a Nationwide championship-eligible driver won. But Smith’s win has been more of an exception rather than a normal occurrence. In recent years, the trend normally has Sprint Cup Series regulars winning Nationwide companion races (most of the races on the Nationwide schedule), with a Nationwide regular, possibly, winning the few stand-alone races. But if one or two Sprint Cup regulars make the trip to a stand-alone race, the prospect of a Nationwide regular even winning those races is in jeopardy.
NASCAR did cut down on Sprint Cup regulars competing for Nationwide Series championships with its “declare a series” rule, prohibiting driving drivers for competing for two championships simultaneously. Still, there’s a large number of drivers that continue to compete part-time at the Nationwide level while racing full-time as a regular in Cup.
I don’t think Cup regulars should be completely wiped off the Nationwide landscape. Even the Nationwide Series regulars — the guys losing to the Sprint Cup drivers on a weekly basis — aren’t, for the most part, for that.
According to them, they like the challenge of going up against the Cup drivers and they claim they learn a lot from them. Besides, on the rare occasion that a Nationwide regular wins one of these races, the fact that they beat several Sprint Cup guys just makes that victory all the much more sweeter.
But as long as teams draw more sponsor dollars for putting a bigger name, translated: Sprint Cup driver, in their cars and Sprint Cup drivers yearn for more track time in preparation for Sunday, I guess this is always going to be a problem. But where should the line be drawn, and what method should be used to draw said line?
One idea is to limit the number of Sprint Cup regulars who may qualify for any given Nationwide race. The opportunity to qualify could be wide open for Cup regulars, but place a cap on the numbers that actually qualify. But that option also has a down side. Would such a cap result in small race fields? Would it be right to run a race with only 36 cars, four shy of a full Nationwide race field, if 41 or 42 made qualifying attempts?
Here’s an idea: hold the qualifying session by the terms outlined above, and if that would create a short field, then, and only then, fill out the remainder of the starting grid with Sprint Cup regulars. But then again, wouldn’t we be right back where we started at that point? Back to a bunch of Sprint Cup drivers in a Nationwide Series race.
NASCAR could give Sprint Cup drivers limits on the number of Nationwide and Truck series races they can run each season. Maybe that will work. But would that also result in small race fields with fewer vehicles showing up to qualify?
If NASCAR does ultimately decide to cut back on what used to be coined as Buschwhacking back when the Nationwide Series was the Busch Series, smaller race fields may be a necessary evil, at least temporarily, and hopefully, only temporarily?
What to do? What to do? I don’t think I have the answer.