“It should go away. Its time has passed.”
“Who needs it?”
Words like these have been bandied around recently and while you might think they were about that hulking beast of an ancient desktop computer or yesterday’s model of cellphone, the words are aimed at something much bigger, something that we can’t afford to toss aside like an outgrown toy.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series.
That’s right. There are those (and growing in numbers, if recent comments are any indication) who would like to see the series scrapped, making the Camping World Truck Series the premier development series in the sport. The reasoning is that the series has become nothing more than Cup Lite, drawn away from its roots and intentions so far that it cannot turn back. That it has no purpose in today’s NASCAR. That its time has passed.
Those people are wrong.
The series is necessary to NASCAR’s health as a whole, providing driver development on a level that the Truck Series can’t, in cars that are much closer to their Cup counterparts aerodynamically. It’s also been the home of several veteran racers who did not choose to race in the Cup Series for a variety of reasons. The series is a valuable addition to the sport.
Like a vintage automobile, the series doesn’t need the junk heap, it needs fixing, one piece at a time, until it’s a viable entity of its own right. And like the restoration of that aging automobile, it will cost both time and money to make it right.
Which is true of quality workmanship in any capacity. Replacing a broken foundation can’t be done in a single day; in fact, it takes many smaller steps to complete the job so that the structure on top is sound. While NASCAR, and many fans, don’t want to hear it, the first repair is to limit the participation of Cup drivers and owners.
Not to say that a Cup owner shouldn’t field a development team, but rather that is all they should be allowed to field. Cup drivers should be limited in both the number of races they run and in the tracks at which they can run.
Five to eight races, to be run only at tracks where the driver does not have a Sprint Cup race win, and with no more than three or four Cup drivers in a single race would give the younger drivers the experience of racing with the Cup guys while giving them the chance to race for wins and championships without having drivers with more experience and five times the money bowl them over week after week.
In order for such a measure to work, there needs to be a massive overhaul of the series’ marketing strategy. The series needs and deserves heavy promotion that is clearly separate from other series. Race fans need to know the drivers, to see them for the lion’s share of the television broadcasts, or they will lose interest. If the Nationwide drivers got similar exposure to the Cup boys, many of them would be equally popular. NASCAR needs to work with broadcasters, sponsors and tracks to make that happen.
The schedule also must be adjusted to make the series viable again. The series was once a short-track series, less of a development series for Cup and more of its own entity. These days, there needs to be a balance. The days of running at Myrtle Beach and South Boston are gone, but the series needs more standalone events at a wide variety of tracks.
The series should include more races at tracks a mile or less in length, but some races on the bigger tracks are important as well, because the young drivers do need to gain the experience on those tracks if they are to become Cup drivers; they simply will not be given the time to learn them in their early Cup careers in today’s environment, so they do need to be prepared somewhat.
That’s not to say they should always run those tracks in conjunction with the Cup Series; some standalone races would be beneficial as well.
This is a series worth fixing for so many reasons. Hundreds of people’s livelihoods are wrapped up in it as is so much of NASCAR’s history. The series does have its own heroes and villains, and it’s up to NASCAR to showcase them in order that the fans will want to take the time to get to know them. The onus is on us all, from NASCAR, to sponsors, to television and radio broadcasters, the media, and race fans.
Just like that classic car, it’s worth restoring the Nationwide Series because underneath the tarnished exterior is something worth saving, something special that should never be lost to time. The time to step up is now and the step has to come from every side. A classic is worth that. The Nationwide Series is worth it.
About the author
Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.
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