NASCAR’s new Xfinity, Truck limitations won’t change much
On Wednesday morning, NASCAR announced limitations on Sprint Cup Series drivers in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series, specifically Cup drivers with over five years of full-time competition at the Sprint Cup level. Said drivers will be limited to 10 Xfinity races and seven Truck races per season and will be prohibited from competing in the Truck and Xfinity regular-season finales and chase races and the four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races. All current Cup drivers will be banned from the championship-finales for Truck and Xfinity, regardless of how many years of full-time Cup competition they have.
I think these aforementioned limitations are a decent compromise between unlimited possibilities of competition across the three national series and getting Cup drivers out of Xfinity and Truck. But I’m not so sure that these guidelines will accomplish the goals fans who hate watching Kyle Busch dominate the Xfinity Series claim to hold dear.
Personally, I don’t think the fan ire is really a matter of Cup drivers, in general, competing in what they refer to as NASCAR’s “lower” series. I have an issue with referring to Xfinity and Truck as “lower” series, but that’s an issue I’ll let go of for the duration of this blog post.
Anyway, back to the point at hand. And I’ll focus, primarily, on the Xfinity Series, because this all doesn’t seem like as much of an issue in the Truck Series, especially since Busch and Brad Keselowski haven’t run very many Truck races this year.
I think the root of the ire isn’t simply Cup driver competition in and dominance of the Xfinity Series. I think this is more of a Kyle Busch issue. And no, I’m not saying all the critics are Busch haters who just hate seeing Busch win anything. I think it’s a matter of a single driver winning, seemingly, all the races. And that driver just happens to be Busch. There’s not much grumbling when Kyle Larson wins an Xfinity Series race. Same is true for Kevin Harvick. Heck, a Keselowski or Joey Logano Xfinity win doesn’t even create as much noise, and they run a lot of Xfinity races per year. But, they’re not winning those races at the rate Busch is. If one of them was, though, I think the same critics would still be there. Simply put, a single Sprint Cup driver winning so many Xfinity races further highlights Cup dominance in the Xfinity Series, I think.
These rules will take care of that. If you figure that Busch wins, roughly, half his Xfinity starts, his win tally will go down to five if he makes the maximum of 10 Xfinity Series starts next year. That should silence the outcry stemming from a single Cup driver winning all the time.
But for those who genuinely have an issue with any combination of Sprint Cup drivers dominating the Xfinity Series, I think they’re going to continue to be disappointed next year, at least through the regular season. Do you seriously think Joe Gibbs Racing will just put Busch in the car for 10 races and then, put some new face in the No. 18 car for all the others? Nah, I’m guessing Busch will run his 10, Hamlin will run a few and Kenseth will maybe even climb into the car for a handful of races. Heck, don’t be surprised if Edwards reappears in the Xfinity Series for a companion race here and there.
At least critics wanting seasoned Cup vets out of Xfinity and Truck have the Dash 4 Cash races, regular-season finales and the chase races for Xfinity and Truck. I just hope they’re okay with Cup drivers with five for fewer years of experience, because I’m guessing those are the drivers who’ll be called on to drive these “all-star” cars for the bulk of those races, except for the races from which they’re also prohibited at Homestead-Miami. Personally, I look for Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones (who’ll be a full-time Cupper next year) in a lot of races next year, at the very least races their more experienced fellow-Cup drivers are prohibited from and once those Cup counterparts hit their 10-race caps. After all the less-experienced Dillon, Larson and Jones aren’t under most of the new restrictions, even though they will be full-timers in Sprint Cup next year. Oh, and I almost forgot, I could probably also add Ty Dillon to that list, as he’s expected to make the move to Cup next year.
I think the dominance fans have an issue with, specifically in the Xfinity Series, is more of a Joe Gibbs Racing issue, not so much a Busch issue. Here’s some food for thought: Busch never won an Xfinity race in his own equipment a few years ago. And face it, JGR has dominated Xfinity action this year, Busch wins aside. Only three Xfinity Series championship-eligible drivers won in this year’s regular season; only one of those three — Elliott Sadler — raced for a team other than JGR. Not to mention, Busch wasn’t the only non-championship-eligible driver to win an Xfinity Series race in JGR equipment this year. Sam Hornish hadn’t even been in a race car in awhile when he claimed an Xfinity Series win for JGR earlier this season.
Judging from interviews I’ve heard with first one JGR official and then another, I get the impression that the organization has every intention of just rotating its Sprint Cup drivers in its No. 18 “all-star” car instead of simply putting Busch in the seat for most of the races. With JGR being a dominating force with Cup driver “X” in the No. 18 car, did NASCAR’s new guidelines really accomplish anything other than cutting into Busch-specific wins? I don’t think so. Remember, JGR, with its Furniture Row Racing alliance continuing next year, probably will have Jones at its disposal for the Dash 4 Cash and chase races, as 2017 will be his lone year of Cup experience. With Jones thrown into the mix, the only race for which Gibbs will be required to put a non-Cup driver in the No. 18 will be at Homestead.
That being said, maybe these new limitations will pacify this disgruntled, at least for awhile. But, other than cutting Busch’s personal win tally, will they accomplish much? I doubt it.