Spare me the altruism.
That’s my message to Cup drivers in the wake of NASCAR’s latest decision to further limit their participation in the Xfinity and Truck Series events moving forward.
For those who missed the news, NASCAR will ban all full-time Cup Series regulars from the Xfinity and Truck Series playoffs, regular season finales and Dash4Cash events next season. Additionally, the sanctioning body also lowered the number of starts Cup veterans with five years of experience can make in each division to seven (NXS) and five (NCWTS) respectively.
Given the state of both tours, it was the right thing to do, but the usual suspects have rallied against it in the form of Xfinity invaders Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.
Both have previously carried the long-standing NASCAR party line that having Cup drivers participating in the secondary tours has been a valuable teaching tool for the development of young drivers. But that’s a tired cliché on the same level as “NAMES ARE MADE HERE.”
Without a doubt, Cup drivers draw sponsors to the Xfinity and Camping World divisions under the current business model. And absolutely, there’s evidence that some fans won’t watch races unless their favorite drivers are entered.
But spare me the rhetoric that Cup drivers are dipping down to pay their due diligence as teachers for the next generation.
Cup drivers largely qualify up front, race up front with each other and win 75 percent of the races over the course of a given season. Sure, they’re racing with ex-Cup guys like Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, or young guns like William Byron and Daniel Hemric, but the majority of the guys who need the “education” aren’t getting it.
At least not from the likes of Busch, Keselowski and Joey Logano.
Ryan Sieg, Ross Chastain, Garrett Smithley and Spencer Gallagher don’t see hide nor hair of the Cup invaders unless they’re getting their doors blown off on lap 10 because the Cuppers missed driver introductions and started at the rear of the field.
Decisions like the one NASCAR implemented today were made for those who drive for JD Motorsports, Tri Star Motorsports or Rod Sieg. Remember the first race at Iowa where those drivers took up 10 of the top-15 spots?
That’s who such a decision intends to benefit.
If NASCAR had more races where Sieg, Chastain, Smithley and JJ Yeley were running up front and racing for the win, it wouldn’t have to rely on Cup drivers to fill the field. After all, Randy Lajoie, Mike McLaughlin, Tim Fedewa and Todd Bodine had no problems finding funding in the 1990s.
They won races and were viewed as stars.
And on the occasion Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Mike Skinner came down to race, they had to go through the true stars of the Busch Series.
So again, this brings us to the age-old real problem in the Xfinity Series: the schedule.
At the end of the day, Cup drivers participating in Xfinity isn’t the problem. The status quo of NASCAR’s business providing Cup drivers 30 times to do so during the course of the season is. The lack of stand-alone races like Iowa and Mid-Ohio is the problem.
It’s no surprise that we were able to establish Preece, Sieg and Chastain as would-be stars when they were given the spotlight at a race where the closest Cup Series veteran was 500 miles away. The regulars raced up front, with each other, and that was an education in itself.
So NASCAR did the right thing by eliminating the chances for Cup drivers to race with Xfinity and Truck Series regulars. They’re not there to educate. Unwittingly, the new business model has forced them to steal the spotlight, sponsors and opportunities from those who really need it.
Today’s decree was a great first step, but the next step of the plan has to involve the schedule.