By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Saturday we saw an unpredictable and strange finish to the Nationwide Series race at Dover, but what ultimately took center stage was a prime example of why Sprint Cup drivers shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the series.
On a restart with two laps to go two Sprint Cup Series drivers, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer, got together which sent off a chain reaction melee that collected nine cars. Involved in the incident were several innocent “Nationwide Only” drivers, who had great runs dashed by the crash.
I’m going to blow everyone’s mind, but the reason that the Sprint Cup drivers have been dominating the Nationwide Series is not because they have more talent, rather than the fact that they have nothing to lose by letting it all hang out. If a Cup driver sails the car into the corner full bore and takes out half of the field, it’s not a big deal to them. Why?
Well in most cases they have huge sponsorship dollars, and they drive for Sprint Cup affiliated “Mega-Teams” that have an endless amount of cars and resources to draw from. Meanwhile drivers such as Trevor Bayne and Chad McCumbee drive inferior equipment and are struggling to nab a sponsor. It doesn’t help when they come home empty through the deal all because two guys up front who are supposed to be the elite drivers in the sport ruin their day.
Let’s turn the tables around lets say that Chad McCumbee makes a mistake running for the win that ends his day and others, what happens? Well he may lose his sponsor or his ride or both. The Sprint Cup drivers don’t have this pressure when they run in the Nationwide Series, and that’s not right.
Now I know what you’re saying… If the Sprint Cup drivers weren’t there, the sponsors wouldn’t be there either, because there wouldn’t be name recognition with the stars of the series… well that’s simply not true.
With the Cup guys gone, the less experienced drivers would have a shot at “top tier” equipment, and all it would take is wins from some of them (which would happen immediately) to secure sponsorship. Just look back to 1982 all the way up to the start of this new craze (where Cup drivers run the full Nationwide schedule) in the early 2000’s. The Nationwide Series survived before without Sprint Cup drivers running a full-slate and i guarantee you it would be able to do the same now.
In fact for roughly the past decade now the amount of Sprint Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series has continued to increase, and this has actually caused a huge identity crisis in this series. Fans have really actually began to lose more and more interest in watching Cup guys basically taking trophies in “pick up” races. However if the Cup guys were banned, many would actually gain interest in scouting the upcoming talent in the sport, and those young guns could actually gain a fan base themselves.
Remember the rivalry of Earnhardt Jr. versus Kenseth in 1998 and 1999? Or what about Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers who made it to the Sprint Cup Series after winning Nationwide Series championships themselves? Heck Jimmie Johnson actually wasn’t anything special in the Nationwide Series, before the Sprint Cup drivers began competing as much as they do today. Yet he was able to pull off a victory at Chicago which helped land him at Hendrick Motorsports… What if half the field that day was Cup drivers, and Johnson never won that race?
The way we are going, in a few years the growth of talent in the Sprint Cup Series will be stunted… When drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson retire, if none of the up-and-comers have had the chance to show they can win a race, who do you replace them with?
It’s ridiculous, because it’s not that the young Nationwide drivers can’t win, it’s just they are at such a disadvantage before the race even begins. Their equipment is subpar, and in essence what “Nationwide Only” drivers are basically being told to be every week is “non racers”. If they run too hard they risk the chance of crashing the car, which would put them out of a ride. The way we could solve this whole issue I believe is to ban Sprint Cup drivers from the Nationwide Series.
I am not alone in my beliefs that Sprint Cup guys should stick to the Sprint Cup Series our very own Chris Smith has voiced his opinion on this matter over the years. Smith has mentioned that the minor leagues are no place for major leaguers in 2004, and in 2007 Smith actually mentioned that the Nationwide (Then Busch Series) was tainted with the influx of Sprint Cup drivers filling the entry lists.