After Kyle Busch took home his 12th Nationwide Series win Saturday the desire for fans to have NASCAR step up and do something has never been greater. Now, by doing something, I don’t mean baring Kyle Busch from running anything but Sprint Cup Series races. I believe new rules need to be in place to, at least, even the playing field.
Having Sprint Cup Series drivers drop down into the lower series is nothing new. The very first Nationwide Series race run in 1982 was won by Dale Earnhardt. The problem we are seeing now versus in the past is the number of races being run by Sprint Cup drivers in the lower series.
During his days of running, Earnhardt ran a max of 14 races in a single Nationwide Series season. Mark Martin, who was the all-time leader in wins for the series before Busch came along, never ran more than 15 races in a season after 1989.
There’s a few factors to why some drivers run more than others. For a while it was because they would run for both titles, in Nationwide and Sprint Cup. NASCAR squashed that with their ‘pick only one series for points’ rule, which has been in place the last three years. That has at least deterred some drivers from running the full-season, but they still run a high number of races.
Another reason is the power of sponsorship. Some sponsors only want Cup level drivers for their potential to win. They also have the ability to resonate with the fans; but they don’t want to pay the higher costs of sponsoring them in the Cup Series. Therefore, they choose to sponsor in the Nationwide Series. I can understand them wanting to get the most bang for their buck, but there needs to be a better way.
Third is the high number of companion races seen between the series. Traveling across the country used to be a discouragement for most drivers, so they would only run in the races that synced up with the Sprint Cup Series schedule. Now with air travel how it is and most Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series races being paired with a Cup race, it is even easier for drivers to justify running them.
There are two adjustments I would like to see NASCAR change in the current climate. One that will never change because it is too radical; and another which could come eventually down the road. The radical idea is to put a ban on Sprint Cup Series teams from operating Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series teams. The gap between the haves and have-nots of those series is staggering, which comes from the Sprint Cup owned organizations have full access to everything they have. That might not be an option for smaller budgeted teams who might only have a few cars in inventory.
The more realistic idea is simply put a limit on the number of races a Sprint Cup Series driver can run in a lower tiered series. I’ve struggled with the exact amount, but it should be a sliding scale. If you finished in the top-25 in Cup points the previous year, you can only run a max of 10 Nationwide Series races. If you finished below 25th you can run up to 20 races. Anything below that and there’s no cap. The idea of the sliding scale is if a driver isn’t that good (thus needs practice) or is in a situation where they might get released, they still can go to the Nationwide Series without penalty. Respectfully, I would adjust the Camping World Truck Series to 5 and 10.
Taking away the potential to earn points was supposed to help drivers monitor themselves. Unfortunately, this is another case where NASCAR will have to step in and police the situation due to fans getting upset over the domination of these races by Sprint Cup Series drivers.