This week, NASCAR changed the rules on Sprint Cup Series driver eligibility in the XFINITY Series and the Camping World Truck Series. After years of no involvement with an issue many criticized the sport for, NASCAR finally sprung into action.
But make no mistake, these rules aren’t going to change anything.
Of the five Sprint Cup Series drivers who have over 10 starts this season in XFINITY, two (Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson) will not have the vast majority of these limits apply to them. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will all be effected by this, but will it really make a difference? For Busch, the team can just plug in rookie driver Erik Jones for the rest of Busch’s usual starts. Keselowski and Logano will probably be sharing the No. 22 again next season for 20 of 33 races with the only difference being an increase in Ryan Blaney‘s races in the car. Then what? Instead of Busch or Keselowski or Logano in Victory Lane, we’ll have Jones or Blaney in victory lane.
Did anything really change that much in that case? Not really.
Sprint Cup drivers are an issue in the XFINITY Series, don’t get me wrong. But even if NASCAR straight-up bans Sprint Cup drivers from the series, we’ll still have Joe Gibbs Racing qualifying 1-2-3 every weekend and either Gibbs or Team Penske winning the race. The problem is not Sprint Cup drivers, the problem is Sprint Cup teams.
No team in the top 15 in XFINITY owner points is an XFINITY-only team, if we’re counting JR Motorsports with its partial Rick Hendrick ownership as one. Two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway, 13 cars finished on the lead lap. Charlotte Motor Speedway three weeks ago had nine finish on the lead lap. There wasn’t a massive 20-car pileup in either race, it’s just how slow the regular XFINITY teams are. Why are they so slow? Because they don’t have the budget or the data the big Sprint Cup teams have.
So, how do we solve that problem? Well, there are two solutions, both of which would radically change the series.
The first would be to essentially take a sledgehammer to the schedule. Get rid of half of the companion races and replace them with short tracks and road courses. Make it less of an advantage for Cup teams to invest heavily into the series, and as a bonus, Cup drivers won’t be encouraged to race in the XFINITY Series anymore because of the lack of companion races.
The other solution is to essentially turn it into a full-on development series. Put teams into a very, very thin box as far as car difference goes, to the point where the only real differences between teams would be personnel and driver talent and would level the playing field by cutting down on the vast majority of team’s research and development . Under this system, NASCAR would either severally limit Sprint Cup drivers from the series or remove them entirely. Finally, eliminate most, if not all, standalone races. The series primary job should be to prepare young drivers for the Sprint Cup level- think of it like boot camp.
Neither are perfect systems but both would be better with how the XFINITY Series is now, with large gaps in funding between the top half of the grid and the bottom half of the grid. Large scale changes would hurt the series in the short term, but in the long term it might be the only way the series as it stands could survive.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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I’m not for doing away with the companion races. Many people driver lengthy distances to attend races, and want to see more than just one race. Despite what Nascar and some writers say, the vast majority of fans don’t want to see cup drivers in the Xfinity series, especially since they stink up the races more times than not. Either a total ban on cup drivers in the lower series, or reducing the number allowed from the ridiculous ten to at least five, or preferably three, would go a long way towards giving young drivers a better chance to make a name for themselves, and would certainly make the races more exciting.
One more smart-ass comment… If having the cup drivers race in the lower series is supposed to help the drivers learn how to race, maybe we should have Tom Brady or Drew Brees QB against the SC Gamecocks to teach them how to play football. Seriously, that whole argument for alowing cup drivers run in the lower series is total BS. There are enough former cup drivers running full time in those series to teach the young drivers all they need to learn.
Em, No Michael! That will NEVER be done. Cup NEEDS companions. EVERY major series in the World relies on them to fill out weekends. AV8SC typically has half a dozen differing series over the course of any given weekend & still manage to get 2 – 3 main game RACES, as well as dozens of undercard races in each weekend. If you haven’t already, I recommend you (& everyone) go to the Aussie V8 Supercar site & take a look at one of their weekend schedules. For Nascar fans, who don’t follow other series, it will be a real eye-opener to see how far that series goes to inject entertainment value into race weekends, as compared to Nascar. Trust me, it’s unreal compared to Nascar! For example, next weekend at Auckland NZ, they host no fewer than TWENTY FIVE races in one weekend, THREE of them being main-game Supercar series races. So, I think you are way off the mark with this & the opposite is true. The schedule is not the problem in my estimation. It’s a good mix right now, of stand-alones & road courses. Apart from perhaps one or two more NXS stand-alones, & removing the 2 superspeedway tracks from the CWT series, I would not change a thing …other than allow the aforementioned, via shorten ALL of the bloated & time-wasting practices by HALF, as well as **it-can the qualifying formats & just go with ONE open 1/2 hour qualifying session. Then they have cut the time requirements for all these sessions by 2/3’s & have ample time to run a variety of races.
And, no, I don’t think anyone wants to see NXS turned into a spec series. But, I think spec car bodies are in the not so distant future of all 3 main series. Teams are insistently doing illegal manual body mods & it is costing everyone, especially Nascar, a ton of money to regulate. For the most part, ARCA & SCCA Trans-Am have gone to pre-fab bodies & I think it is only a matter of time before Nascar makes them permissible & the marginal teams begin to adopt them. As it is now, there are only a few companies making all the 1/4 panels used in Cup. So we’re nearly there already…
I don’t agree that Cup teams in the NXS are the huge problem either. How better develop a youngster than try him in company gear? NXS was never intended to be a separate & entirely distinct series & never will be. It was conceived & always intended on being noting more than a Cup undercard & a very direct feeder series, for drivers, as well as crew members & engineers. A simple first-step to try to accomplish what you view as the problem is to limit the number of entrees Cup associated teams can enter in the NXS to ONE. Any more drastic measure than that is inconceivable to me.
I also think the “exhibitionist” limitations will be ratcheted down in the near future, with that 5 year open loop-hole closing to 3, or going away entirely. Also the “regular” season limits I think will eventually be more like 7 & 5, or 5 & 3.
Initially, I though …10 & 7 still seems like a lot. I thought it’s a step in the right direction, but considering the 5 year open loop-hole, it’s a baby-step & there is not much tooth in this, at all. It made me thing that when the rubber meets the road, this will amount to lip service with minimal impact on the bottom lines of “regulars”.
But after ruminating for a while, as an unprecedented first swipe, I think it is pretty much PERFECT! They are looking to achieve a “balance” & avoid sending a systemic shock thru the NXS series & it’s teams, sponsors & corporate partners (CWT relies on exhibitionist MUCH less, so it’s no big deal there). What that “balance” consists of is pretty much impossible to quantify without a certain level of trial & error. So, to say a cliché that fits, it’s easier to cut-off more later, rather than put it back after you cut-off too much. In following that credo, they will certainly be able to tweak to more stringent limits if the results do not meet their expectations. So, I got nothing but kudos & two thumbs up!
I hope the rumors about composite bodies coming to Xfinity are true. I agree that the best way to improve Xfinity racing is to lower the cost of competition. You just can’t win in Xfinity anymore without some sort of Cup affiliation.
The rule would have been much more effective if it limited each Cup built/affiliated team to only allow a Cup regular to drive in 5 races….and designate which of the Cup teams multiple drivers would participate. Judging from the stands, it certainly isn’t apparent that having the Cup drivers/teams on track has done much to fill the stands. Or how about not allowing any Cup driver in the top 25 to participate?
Just more NASCAR BS, cup drivers will win races they run in, they should not be allowed run in anything but Cup racesj