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NASCAR's rules change limiting Cup drivers in lower series was long overdue Featured

Posted On Saturday, 29 October 2016 20:00 Written by
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It’s about time, and long overdue.

Of course, I’m referring to the big news this week, that in the wake of many years of domination by Cup drivers in lower series, NASCAR is finally taking strong action to limit the participation of experienced Cup series drivers in Xfinity and Truck series competition. This will allow those series to actually have the young drivers in those series battle more often for wins, and more importantly be left alone to battle with less Cup series driver involvement when it comes to Chase time and Dash for Cash races.

If you’re ever watched one of the rare Xfinity races that featured no top-series driver making an appearance, you know they’re some of the best shows in the sport.

Instead of Kyle Busch or another Cup star coming down to the lower series and dominating 90 percent of the race, you see tight racing between all the best young talent in the sport, often for the lead. It’s what the series was meant to be, and this move will ensure that’s the case going forward starting in 2017, at least for part of the year.

Here’s the breakdown of how the rules will work.

Starting in 2017, “premier series drivers with more than five years of full-time experience” can only compete in 10 races in XFINITY Series, seven races in the Truck series. This allows some younger racers to compete more often in the lower series if they want (think Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon), but prevents a Kyle Busch scenario where he hypothetically competes in 20 Xfinity races and wins 15 of them. Yes, I keep bringing up Kyle Busch, because he is basically the reason this rule now exists. He has essentially ruined the Xfinity Series over the past handful of years with his dominance whenever he competes, and I’m glad there will be limitations on him and others who would do the same. To put Busch’s accomplishments in perspective, 80 of his 85 Xfinity wins came while he was a full-time Cup driver, as did all 46 of his Truck series wins.

 Drivers with more than five years of full-time premier series experience “will be ineligible to compete in the final eight races” in Xfinity or Truck series (aka the Chase races), and also can not compete in the Xfinity Series’ Dash 4 Cash races. This is just plain common sense, and I’m surprised it wasn’t put in place for 2016. How does it make sense to have a battle for Xfinity and Truck drivers to advance to next round by winning the race, and a bunch of ringers can come in and steal the show and go to Victory Lane. It makes no sense. Same with Dash 4 Cash, a great setup that only gets cluttered when Cup drivers are there.

Finally, “Drivers earning premier series points in 2017 also are not eligible to compete in the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship Races at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”; This will exclude all Cup drivers – which again makes sense. NASCAR wants Xfinity and Truck drivers up front battling for the win and the Championship in the final Chase race, not somebody who can’t earn points and is just there for the paycheck and the checkered flag.

For years I have used the analogy that the way NASCAR has operated its lower series is equivalent to letting Major League Baseball players compete on their off days in the minor leagues. Of course they shouldn’t, as they’re much better players than the minor leaguers. Heck, in the past it was even crazier. Before 2011, a Cup driver didn’t have to declare for one series, and could simultaneously compete in the full Xfinity series schedule and compete for both titles – something that was changed a few years back after Cup guys took home some titles in the lower series.

NASCAR, I understand, is a bit different. Sponsors drive the sport, so if they want a bigger name in the car to put their money on it, they can get that. But how on Earth are young drivers supposed to come up in the series, if the rides designed for them in Xfinity (and to a lesser extent, in Trucks) are already taken most weeks by a guy who already has a Cup series ride? It’s a bit of a Catch-22, and I understand the business implications involved. But in the end, it really does defy logic.

One could argue this rule doesn’t go far enough, and that ALL Cup drivers should be banned from Xfinity and Truck races, or the number of races allowed should be smaller. Even with the rule, Kyle Busch and many other Cup guys will do the allowed number of Xfinity or Truck races, and will steal the show some weeks. And by allowing the guys will less experience to still race without limits, it’s allowing the “next Kyle Busch” to emerge and dominate like he has in the past.

But for now, as someone who wants NASCAR to grow and who wants to see great racing between the stars of tomorrow today (like I saw back in the late 1990s between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, for example), I will applaud this move as a good first step.

The fans have demanded this for years after being underwhelmed by the show at Xfinity and Truck races, and NASCAR finally listened.

Matt Myftiu can be reached on Twitter @Matt Myftiu.

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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