Race Weekend Central

Unleashed: Cup Drivers Can Run Over the Xfinity Series without Fear of Penalties

So, if you kind of sidle up to another car with yours and prevent it from moving forward, that is okay said NASCAR when Austin Dillon took offense to Cole Custer’s ill-timed maneuvers at Phoenix  a couple weeks ago. This was after the sanctioning body told all the teams that if you used your car as a weapon, that’s where the mythical line in the sand lay and you could expect the hand of God to descend upon your car, team, and into your pocket.

But the situation wasn’t entirely okay, NASCAR officials pointed out on Monday after the dust settled and everybody was still scratching their heads. Austin Dillon was told to go park his No. 2 after he played self-appointed referee, which was actually fairly pointless as Dillon’s car no longer had a rear bumper and the geometry of the rear axle was somewhat questionable after his unfortunate spin.  He would probably have ended up parking it anyway.

So, NASCAR wasn’t happy with Dillon, but they weren’t about to shut him down either.

What left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, besides the obvious non-penalty, is that had Dillon been running in the Monster Energy series when he pulled such a boneheaded move, parking the team would have carried monetary and points consequences without waiting for the usual Tuesday PR release from headquarters.  If NASCAR had parked an XFinity points earning team, it actually would have been a serious slap on the wrist, but due to Dillon’s interloper status it was pretty much allowing the senior in high school free reign to come stink up the JV game.

Yep. Besides leaving everybody in the driver meetings wondering what they can and can’t get away with in their own series, this lack of action by NASCAR could create an even nastier scenario.

Let’s picture a well-funded Xfinity team like William Byron’s heading for the playoffs, but he makes the mistake of ticking off a driver of say…Joe Gibbs Racing (this is all totally hypothetical). While the Gibbs full-time driver of Matt Tifft could not slow down Byron’s car by pulling a Dillon without suffering undo harm to his championship hopes, drivers like Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, and Denny Hamlin could take turns hampering the No. 9 and simply lose the opportunity to run for a win in a series in which they cannot accumulate championship driver points.

You’d think that NASCAR would bring down the sledgehammer in this case, but after slapping Dillon on the back and telling him not to do it again, it certainly left the door wide open for the worst aspects of competition to be used in the future without fear of punishment.

NASCAR limited the number of races that Cup regulars can participate in at the XFinity level, as part of this year’s adjustments in an attempt to provide a fairer playing field for those working their way up the ladder. However, even if the Cup regular isn’t stealing as many points as in the past by winning all the trophies, they can still directly affect the outcome of the race and the championship in the lower tier simply by doing what they do best–bully everyone else out of the way in an effort to win.

NASCAR has created an impossible situation: bring the big boys along so the youngsters gain valuable competitive experience, but at the same time prevent them from stealing all the glory, money, and fame.  It really can’t be done in a fair manner. Not unless a set of regulations are created to ensure that a Cup driver who steps out of bounds in an XFinity race feels the impact in the car that pays their big salary. But that would only protect the youngsters and further hinder the superstars.

Perhaps NASCAR should just eliminate the Xfinity championship all together and leave the Saturday night specials as simply 200 lap features where all comers are welcome and winner takes all.

Yet, that would never happen. It makes too much sense.



Was David Hoots messing with us? This week an owl landed on the surface at Auto Club Speedway, and wasn’t too eager to leave.  Officials had to halt practice while they ushered the bird to a safer viewing place…probably in the sponsor suites.




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