Time To ‘Wack Cup Drivers From NNS

by Jim on March 4, 2010 · 27 comments

A funny thing happened this year in the Nationwide Series while everyone was fawning over Danica: some pretty decent racing broke out. Heck- I’ll take the “junior varsity” event at Fontana any day of the week over the Cup action there, plus I think you’ll agree with me that the action wasn’t half bad at Vegas or Daytona.

I have a question, though. If you’re a little less than a WAY serious fan, do these name ring a bell with you? I’m talking about Justin Allgaier, Steve Wallace, Trevor Bayne, Rick Stenhouse, Jr., or James Buescher. These non-Cup regulars are plying their trade, and some quite well, in the Nationwide Series. Did you know Allgaier and Wallace running top ten in the standings right now? Only a serious fan would know that.

That it took IRL and “GoDaddy” star Danica Patrick racing there to get the series some attention makes a sad statement about the Nationwide Series. Fellow Bump Drafter Patrick Reynolds (who worked in the Germain shop at one time) has said it, and I agree, it’s a series without an identity.

Well, actually it does, now that I think of it. It’s Saturday practice for the likes of Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle. Now before you go skewering me about this, I get it. I know their passion for racing. All the above mention Cup drivers are champions in the series and they want to be where the action is. I’m also sure that it doesn’t hurt the bank account.

But it’s time they got out. At least driving Nationwide as much as they do.

Tom Bowles said it over at Frontstretch, and I agree, Cup regulars stinking up the show in Nationwide is like a major leaguer beating up on Triple A competition in baseball, or Dwayne Wade running up his scoring average on NBDL competition. Those minor league systems exist for the purpose of developing athletes for the highest level, and everyone involved knows it.

I do understand the star power and pull these drivers have, especially in their home regions. That’s why I propose the idea of limiting full time Cup drivers to 10 entries a year in the Nationwide Series. This lets Harvick play to his homeys in California and Phoenix. Carl Edwards can light up the tracks in St. Loo and Iowa. Heck, Tony Stewart and Dale Jr. can still run Daytona and have a few more dates to play around with as well. It just means these guys wouldn’t be running for championships anymore. They shouldn’t be. That’s what Cup is for.

I’m amused that the commercials for the Nationwide Series feature the young bucks trying to break into Cup, but these guys never get a real chance against what we used to call the “Buschwackers.” What’s worse is when guys like Scott Lagasse get shafted like Aric Almirola did three seasons ago, because the almighty sponsors want a Cup guy in their car. Drivers like Brad Coleman, Stephen Leicht, and Landon Cassil should be getting seat time in the NNS- not Denny Hamlin.

I also don’t mind having the older guys in there like Kenny Wallace, Morgan Shepherd and Scott Riggs in there. Guys who keep their chops sharp by staying in the cockpit, because they will get called to fill in from time to time. Or maybe they’re there for other reasons. After all, in baseball, you see your share of Crash Davis types who will likely never make it at the top level, but they still love to play and do so at the minor league level. There’s nothing wrong with that. Ralph Earnhardt and Sam Ard were legends in their own right without having much chance to race in Cup.

Let’s give these Nationwide rides to the REAL Young Guns. Let’s also get the young lasses legitimate seat time to prove their worth. Are these young drivers, who are admittedly a little raw, marketable? Apparently, they are, because that’s who gets marketed in the race promos.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves about what the Nationwide Series is, and what it ought to be. It’ll be fun watching Michael Annett and Brian Scott trading paint, with old salts like Tony Raines and Mike Wallace keeping them honest.

We’ll never know until we try. Let’s give it a chance. Whattya say?

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Four Wide: Are Jeff and Jimmie no longer BFF?
March 6, 2010 at 9:24 am


1 Rob March 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm

total agreement there..sprint guys go home..i’d like to see braun running as one of the big boys in nns..not just..oh..the other roush guy..racing for wins against allgier et all..the sprint drivers really stink up the show usually predeterming the winner..kinda sucks

2 Wylie March 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Let me throw this out there and see what you think, it’s not the Cup drivers that are the problem, I remember back 20 years ago Cup regulars ran the “Jr League”, yes they also won some races but so did the then Busch regulars. What has changed isn’t Cup drivers racing in the NNS it’s the fact that now they are running in the NNS in teams either owned or heavily supported by the Cup teams.
If you get the drivers out it is going to really hurt the series, lets face it they put butts in the seats. Lets get the Cup teams and their support out of the NNS. I think that will help much more.

3 TitanTerry March 5, 2010 at 5:07 am

I agree 1000% and have been saying so to anyone who would listen for 10 years now. NNS racing would explode if they took cup drivers out of it and let it have it’s “own” identity; which it lost many years ago to $$$ people.

4 David March 5, 2010 at 6:12 am

I can understand the need to limit or remove Cup drivers from NNS. However, I do think an exception would be in order for Kevin Harvick. If you are running in NNS for a team you own, that is an entirely different story than running for a Cup organization who also has NNS teams. This is the younger drivers proving ground. Let them have their day and show everyone what the next generation of Cup drivers looks like now.

5 janine March 5, 2010 at 6:39 am

Good job Jim. I’ve been against Sprint Cup drivers in Nationwide for a long time. Why? Is there another sport out there that people go backwards? NFL players don’t go back and play college football after they made it in the “Big Time.” Baseball players don’t go back and play for the farm team, same for hockey and all other sports, so why is it O.K. to do that in NASCAR?

6 Rick March 5, 2010 at 6:54 am

I really wish this topic would just go away. NASCAR is not going to keep Cup drivers from competing in the nationwide series and I don’t think they should. People fail to realize the Nationwide series is not like triple A baseball it may not be as big as Cup. However it is a national series that is the 2nd biggest series there is so anyone who can get a ride rather they are a Cup driver or not should be able to race in it. Also as fas as not knowing certian drivers unless you are a hard core fan thats fine with me NASCAR needs to worry about there hardcore fans not the casual fan who watches every now and then if your gonna watch and complain about things you should know whats going on and who everyone is.

7 janine March 5, 2010 at 7:29 am

NASCAR is never going to stop Sprint Cup regulars from running Nationwide. But, with that said, how many guys are running for Rookie of the Year in that series this year? I believe it’s two. Why? Because Sprint Cup regulars make up almost half the field.No rides available , no rookies avaliable.

8 Steve In Atlanta March 5, 2010 at 7:31 am

Jim – The CUP drivers are just playing by the rules set up by NA$CAR and everyone involved, the owners, drivers and the sponsors are making a ton of money off this series as it is today. Do you seriously think NA$CAR is going to change this? I don’t! The racing is great and the beginners are learning. If the large teams could not participate, the NS would fold up due to no sponsors. This is not the busch leauge anymore and Rick has this right – I also wish this topic would go away! If the complainers do not like it then don’t watch it!
Have a great day!

9 Roady March 5, 2010 at 8:29 am

I’m not opposed to Cup guys in the NNS. I think that they shouldn’t be able to practice or qualify NNS cars. Let the young kids learn how to setup the car and qualify. If the cup regulars want to practice their NNS cars then they shouldn’t be able to practice their Cup cars. The Cup guys should all have to start in the back of the field. I believe this would make the Nationwide series exciting to watch.

10 Terry March 5, 2010 at 8:51 am

Back in the day,the Cup guys would run the Busch Series only in select big races and most of them would run their own equipment,no their Cup Owner cars.
I don’t think a Cup regular should be allowed to run for a Nationwide Champioship.

11 Kevin March 5, 2010 at 9:55 am

I certainly like the idea; I have completely lost interest in the Nationwide Series and no longer watch it because there are so many Cup drivers. As I read this article, I was thinking, how exactly could NASCAR regulate how many Cup drivers are in a Nationwide race? How could it define who exactly a “Cup driver” is? Mike Bliss, for example, has been driving in both series, but he drives underfunded equipment in both.

I don’t mind having a few Cup drivers in the field, and I do recognize the fact that it most likely increases fan attendance. Here is my idea: Let no more than 6 Cup regulars race in a Nationwide race each weekend. “Cup regular” would be defined as anyone currently inside the top-25 in driver points. Let’s say 10 such drivers attempt to qualify for a Nationwide race. The fastest 6 (or 5 or 8 or whichever number is chosen) would get in, and the other 4 would go home. Having “the best of the best” compete amongst themselves for a limited number of positions would add another element of excitement as well. In addition, anyone inside the top-25 in Cup points would not be allowed to run more than 3 consecutive Nationwide races. Let’s have a real Nationwide Series champion again!

Of course, I do realize this will almost certainly not happen, but it’s fun to dream and hope!

12 Gina March 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

Totally agree – I think the “cup” guys should only be allowed a limited number of entries into the Nationwide series AND they shouldn’t be allowed to run for the championship. If you are up there with the “big boys”, then playing against less well-known and funded teams is just being a bully on the playground.

13 keith March 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

Just keep cup drivers out of cup cars in the Nationwide races. Half of the Nationwide would beat the cup drivers in the same equipment. If a cup driver runs a Nationwide race he should only be allowed to race for a Nationwide team that has no ties with a cup team and you would have half of the cup drivers scared to look bad and they won’t race.

14 Trav March 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

Simple solution:

In Nationwide 5 spots for the top 20 from Cup. No Cup driver in the top 20 can run more than 5 races.

15 Steve March 5, 2010 at 11:05 am

Rick#6, the hardcore fans don’t want to see the Cup guys in that series. They want to see our up and coming drivers race on Saturday so that someday we can see them in Cup. If these Cup drivers raced for Nationwide only teams, rather than fully supported Cup teams, the feeling would be different. The way it is right now, where are our future drivers coming from when the wave of 30 something drivers decide to retire. These guys make too much money to be driving until they are 50.

If you think the Nationwide series would fold because the Cup guys aren’t there, your wrong. The series had an identity and very few Cup guys 10 years ago and the racing was interesting and people paid to watch these races. Of the Cup guys that raced, they were not heavily backed by their Cup teams.

Right now the truck series is the most entertaining of the 3 series. At least this season, Kyle Busch is running his own trucks.

16 txGreg March 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

I’d like to see some sort of change too. I’ve had thoughts similar to Kevin’s (above) but going a bit further: Limit the number of races in which any Cup driver can compete. And also, limit the number of Cup drivers that can start in any given race.

Now after qualifying, not only do the “slow pros” go home, but the ones who do qualify all get to go to the back of the grid. Think of it as both more of a “show” for the fans, and also as additional training for the newbies. They all get to spend a little time racing against the fastest guys on the track for position – not just being told to pull over and let the lead lap cars past.

Also – make the Cup regulars “invisible” in the points. They should be completely ignored when NASCAR allocates points to the field. If the first three finishers were Cup drivers, then driver #4 gets “first place points” when tallying up the days’ haul – and so on through the field.

(Oh, and like the other “go or go homers” make the Cup guys qualify in a big batch at the end)

17 janine March 5, 2010 at 11:15 am

@ Steve, are you saying it’s not OK for the cup guys to race in the Nationwide series, BUT it is OK to run in the truck series?

18 Rick March 5, 2010 at 11:27 am

Again if you want to see up and coming stars go to your local short track. This is a profesional series so any qualified driver should be aloud to compete plus I like watching drivers like Harvick and Edwards trying to win both championships in the same year I hope someone wins both in the same year someday that would be so cool to see.

19 Steve March 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

@janine, No that’s not what I was saying. I didnt like Busch running in the truck series, but at least this season he is running his own truck, much like Harvick in the NW series. Those guys I can tolerate, (wish they would use up and coming drivers in their vehicles but I understand why they don’t at this point) because they are funding their own program.

It used to be that these NW programs funded by Cup had a NW driver in them all season. I don’t have a problem with that either. This is why it was a developmental series. But if you have made the Sprint Cup Chase in any given year, you should not be allowed to race at all in the NW series.

My question to you if you feel that the Cup drivers should be allowed to race, what is it that Nascar is trying to showcase? The Cup drivers? Or the Nationwide drivers? Think before you answer because Nascar has NW ads out now totally focusing on the NW regulars. I’m not sure Nascar can answer that question to be honest with you.

20 KenB March 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

I couldn’t agree with you more! How pathetic is it that Carl Edwards runs a full schedule in the Nationwide Series when he already makes millions as a Cup driver? How do these Cup guys sleep at night? I’m sick of hearing people say that these guys are racers, so we should just let them race. What about all of the young guys who have been shafted by Cup teams and Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series? These guys deserve to race, too!

21 janine March 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

@Steve, thanks for clearing the air. I think NASCAR will promote anyone or anything that will bring in money. Like Danica.

22 Brooks March 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I’m not in favor of a total ban, but i think only 5-10 cup drivers should be allowed in one race, plus they have to drive their own equipment. There is no identity in this series today like their was in the 80′s and 90′s, when you knew you were at a busch grand national race with the V6 motors and stars like Randy LaJoie, Buckshot Jones, David Green, Johnny Benson, among others. Another problem is the lack of stand alone events. Let’s send this series back to South Boston, Myrtle Beach, Hickory, short tracks that packed them in there despite the face there was rarely cup drivers in the field at those tracks. They came to watch great short track busch series racing. Bottom line is something needs to happen to save this series…fast.

23 steve March 5, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I’m all for letting anyone run in either series.
That is the basic premice of the sport.
However I think that perhaps there should be
a requirement that a driver/team state their
intentions at the start of the season(before Daytona)
If they commit to running a full NNS schedule let them race.
If they do not make that commitment- let them race-
give them their share of the winnings, but not the points.

Give the points to the regulars and let them determine
the championship.
It might help the series by creating a “race within a race”

24 The Mad Man March 6, 2010 at 6:50 am

The official excuse for the Cup guys driving in the Cup Lite Series is to put butts in the seats. After seeing how empty they’ve been since this excuse was offered up, I think it’s not working too well. The only time you see something close to a sell-out is the stand lone races when there are no Buschwhackers.

The Cup guys should stay in the Cup Series and stay out of the other two. They tend to stink up the show.

25 Patrick Reynolds March 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Cup, Nationwide, Truck drivers: pick ONE.

Nationwide Series could have its own stars that stand on its own two feet if they were allowed to come forward.

The Nationwide Series is NOT a developmental series but it CAN be used as a developmental series. There is a difference.

Where are the Sam Ards, Tommy Houstons, Jack Ingrams, and Tommy Ellis of today? They don’t exist because half the Nationwide field also are Cup regulars on Sunday.

26 Heng ly horng July 2, 2010 at 12:37 am


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