As we get ready to roll into Championship Week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the biggest thing shouldn’t be whether or not Martin Truex, Jr. can grab his first title or if Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch can get their second title or whomever gets into the final spot can pull off an upset– it really should be about how NASCAR needed to make the decision about the lower levels years ago.
If you hadn’t kept up to date with the Xfinity Series– and I can’t blame you if you haven’t– the Championship Four consist of Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, William Byron, and Daniel Hemric. All four of those drivers are Chevy drivers and three of them drive for the same company– JR Motorsports. It’s always fun when a development series has three drivers from the same team in the final– right?? Plus, in all honesty– Byron and Hemric are really the only development drivers of the four in there.
The point is that while Kyle Busch is being a piss-baby about NASCAR changing the rules to REALLY limit Cup drivers coming down and taking seat time from drivers– it needs to be done in order to save a fledgling series and to ensure the Cup Series sticks around. For those saying the Cup Series would never fold– Monster Energy, the new title sponsor, only is around for one more year and is hemming and hauling at an extension. The sport is in bad shape.
It’s of NASCAR’s own doing, though. They allowed Cup drivers to get into lower division seats and take away seat time for guys who could be developing for the Cup Series. NASCAR thought taking away points from those Cup drivers would be a big deal– but it wasn’t about the points. It was about the money and then maybe putting that money into their own teams. Of course, Kyle Busch proved that wrong when he said he’d pull his teams from the series if he personally couldn’t drive in said series.
Guys like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski did the right things for the lower series by investing in them thoroughly. Keselowski, sadly, had to shut down his team after the money just wasn’t there in the Camping World Truck Series anymore and it was hidden under the guise of him wanting to be a Cup Series owner. Dale, Jr., however, really had this thing sorted out. That #9 car has been a proving ground guys like Chase Elliott and Byron the past couple seasons, while he’s also had plenty of guys come though his team to help them develop– like Keselowski, Danica Patrick when she made the jump, and lesser known drivers like Shane Huffman and Mark McFarland.
Sure, JR Motorsports did have cars that had Cup drivers in them, but it was only one car– which was designated as such and never took over from one of the four drivers that had every-week spots. Not only that, but JR Motorsports also allowed drivers to try and reclaim their spot in the Cup Series by giving them good cars. You see that now especially with Sadler, Allgaier, and Michael Annett behind the wheel– all former Cup guys looking to get another break in the show.
There are teams out there who have spots for rookie drivers– like Richard Childress Racing has with Hemric, Stewart-Haas Racing has with Cole Custer, and Roush-Fenway Racing has with Ryan Reed– but by and large, it’s Cup drivers taking over seats where younger drivers should be developing– like other RCR cars and the majority of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity squad.
Not only is it taking away seat time– but it’s taking away sponsorships, as well. It’s already hard enough for young drivers to get noticed when they are in inferior equipment and running against Cup guys in top-of-the-line stuff, but it’s even harder when they have to pay for their seat by getting some sponsorship. It’s hard to get sponsor support when you’re never on TV because you’re only shown wrecking– so a bond and brand can’t be formed. You can say that’s why Roush-Fenway dumped Bubba Wallace.
In the new rules where Cup drivers can only drive in five Xfinity races a season, it actually allows young drivers to develop, it allows drivers to become faces of brands, it allows for fans to see the new faces of NASCAR before they get there….if they get there, rather. In any case, it makes the Xfinity Series stronger in the long run– so long as sponsors believe the vision of what NASCAR is doing and what they should have done years ago to keep the series healthy.
There’s a lot of problems in NASCAR– like….A LOT. But this change is one that is long overdue and probably has set the development of some drivers and teams back a good five years because of the insistence of having Cup drivers go down and steal money and sometimes points away from developing drivers and developing teams.