Gas 'N' Go: Sprint Cup Drivers in Nationwide
By: MRN Staff on March 20, 2014 | 2:07 A.M. EST
Kyle Busch's win at Bristol was the third time in four Nationwide races this year that a Sprint Cup regular won. (Photo: Getty Images)
The pits are open again and, MRN.com's Pete Pistone and Dustin Long each answer this week's featured question in "Gas 'N' Go."
Should NASCAR limit Sprint Cup drivers from participating in the Nationwide Series?
There was a time when I thought so, but I've changed my stance. The short answer is no and here's why.
NASCAR has never designated the Nationwide Series as a developmental series. Teams have used it that way. Many drivers have cut their teeth in the division and moved to Cup. Even NASCAR itself touts it as a "proving ground." But the fact is the Nationwide Series, since its inception as the Busch Series in 1982 and even before that when it was known as the Late Model Sportsman Series, is simply a division NASCAR sanctions with a specific car, engine and set of rules. Any driver fitting the series’ parameters should be allowed to compete.
Some fans don't want to hear it but limitations NASCAR puts on series participation have the potential for dire results. Sponsors would walk away without being able to sponsor name drivers. Organizations would go out of business without having the funding to compete. And the caliber of competition would drop dramatically.
One guy is dominating the series now in Kyle Busch - which is why I believe this topic of conversation is going strong. Mark Martin used to do the same thing back in the 1990s when he raced for Jack Roush in the potent Winn-Dixie Ford. Cup drivers have always raced in Nationwide and fans seemed to love it. The outcry now is more anti-Kyle than it is anything in my opinion.
The Series is the second most popular form of racing in the country behind Sprint Cup. NASCAR should leave things alone.
NASCAR needs to decide what it wants the Nationwide Series to be. If it wants it to be a developmental series, then limits should be placed on Sprint Cup drivers racing in that series. If NASCAR wants the series to be a mix, then Cup drivers should be able to compete as much as they want.
The key issue is if teams will be able to sell sponsors on lesser-name drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has said that he’d like to develop talent with his JR Motorsports team, but there is a reason he runs a few races and why Kevin Harvick will run some races in those cars - because a sponsor wants those drivers. Most don't want some youngster. Chase Elliott is driving for Earnhardt’s team this year but it also helps that there’s a sponsor with Elliott. Without that sponsorship, Elliott likely wouldn’t be running a full season or even in that car.
Brad Keselowski has said that he’d be for NASCAR allowing Cup drivers to run as much as they wanted in the Nationwide Series but those drivers couldn’t race for a team with Cup backing. Maybe that’s a solution
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.