by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.January 16, 2011 8:33 am UTC 2 Comments
How much affect will NASCAR’s new rule that allows drivers to compete for a championship in only one major touring series have on the sport?
2010 saw only two drivers make a run at the Nationwide Series title while also competing in The Sprint Cup series. NNS champ Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards took the green flag in all thirty-five NNS races. Both Keselowski and Edwards intend to run the entire NNS schedule in 2011 as well; even though NASCAR will force them to exempt themselves from the championship hunt.
You have to go back to the 2004 and 2005 seasons to find a non-Cup regular who won the NNS championship, when Martin Truex, Jr. won back to back. Since then Kevin Harvick, Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch then Keselowski have taken their full-time Cup expertise to the Nationwide Series and won the championship.
Five years of domination by Cup drivers has resulted in NASCAR’s decision to limit drivers to running for a championship in only one series. Seems like a good idea. But couldn’t there have been a better way?
While the focus of the new rule is clearly directed at the Cup/Nationwide dilemma; there had to be a better and less far reaching solution to the problem. The real losers in the new rule are not the Cup regulars looking to grab Nationwide hardware and cash; but drivers looking to catch a break in the Camping World Truck Series while looking for a ride in Nationwide as well.
Look at drivers like Jen Jo Cobb, Justin Lofton or Brian Scott, to name only a few. Drivers that are looking to put deals together in both series; to not only increase seat time but also showcase their talent to prospective sponsors, are being greatly handicapped. NASCAR forcing them to declare a championship series before the season begins greatly minimizes their options.
What may look like a fully funded deal in one series may come up short before the end of the season, forcing them to fall back to a secondary opportunity in the other; but unable to collect championship points. This becomes a lose-lose situation for NASCAR and the driver.
NASCAR could have achieved the same result—getting a Nationwide Series only driver to win the championship by simply limiting the number of starts a Cup driver can make in the NNS. Kyle Busch finished third in the NNS standings in 2010 and only started twenty-nine races. Limit Cup drivers to starts in no more than two-thirds of the events, in the other series and the problem goes away and there is no trickle down affect to the other series.
Promoters, fans and television networks want to see Cup drivers in the other series. It is good for business. Having them consistently win the championship is not. But, please NASCAR, look at the far reaching consequences of the decisions you make. What may look like a simple solution may not be so simple for those trying to make a name for themselves in your other series.