Well, two out of the four drivers I figured would be in the running for the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup are heading off to Miami ready to fight for the big trophy. Kyle Larson fell out due to a string of bad luck. Likewise, Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 just didn’t bring their trademark magic to these last few races. This leaves us with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. posing for all those final four media promotions this week, along with Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.
Is that acceptable? Well actually, yes it is. Three out of the four already have a Cup in their trophy cases at home, while Mr. Truex…he has totally earned this chance. He has seven wins in 2017. Seven! And if he wasn’t taking home the black & white on any given week, he collected 19 green and white flags. He has nailed this new points scenario.
So, yes. For the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, I am satisfied with the season’s results–minus the lack of a win for Dale Jr. and Chase Elliot.
However, take a step back a look at the XFINITY standings and I am decidedly torn in two. William Byron is at least able to fight for the championship this year, where last year he was denied that opportunity in the Truck series due to the elimination format. But if I look at the stats for the year as a whole without even worrying about the playoffs, I get really angry.
The second-tier series has run 32 races this year. 21 checkered flags were taken home by drivers who were not eligible to accumulate points. Seven wins were stolen by Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski alone. While Byron’s four victories would look great in any season, whether he is running against the princes of our sport or not, the fact remains that his fellow XFINITY competitors really didn’t even have the chance to shine.
Byron will be racing against Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, and Daniel Hemric with only the No. 7 of Allgaier actually earning a mark in the win column this year. So whoever snags the big win at the end of the Homestead race will be able to say they ran well enough to be able to participate in a competition that will make them the poster child of a racing series that….stands for very little.
So no, this does not make me happy in the least.
I really don’t care how often it is stated that the rising stars of NASCAR get the chance to run against the best of the best. The reality is that NASCAR created a “championship” that is really nothing more than a participation trophy for showing up. It’s the penance that drivers must pay if they want to run on Sunday. Which is working out well for Byron, but I don’t expect Allgaier to get another run at the big show, Sadler is on the down side of his career, and Hemric? Well, he needs to actually beat the odds at some point next year.
Yes, Cup drivers will be more limited in their participation in the XFINITY Series next year, but it still isn’t zero. It’s just not enough. Even in high school, the varsity players don’t get to stink up the show in JV. This has got to stop.
If NASCAR ever wants the XFINITY Series to actually stand up to its motto of, “Names are made here,” it has to actually provide the opportunity for meaningful exposure for the young guns, instead of letting the superstars of the sport overshadow their achievements.
On Saturday morning, the over-the-wall crews for the JR Motorsports teams boarded a plane in North Carolina and took off to reach Phoenix for the afternoon race. They never arrived due to a problem with the plane. William Byron’s No. 9 still managed to take home the trophy using a crew bodged together with a variety of development crew members. Now that is truly the hallmark of a championship team, no matter who they were running against today.
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