Whitesburg KY

Series need Cup drivers

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

Daytona International Speedway will host testing for the Sprint Cup Series later this week, and while everyone is in attendance NASCAR plans to meet with all the owners and drivers. Of course, the governing body seldom announces what is on the agenda for one of these ‘town hall’ type meetings,but apparently one item to be covered is the awarding of championship points for next season.

Kenny Wallace reported last week that when he picked up his 2011 NASCAR competition, membership, and license application, there was a block where you had to mark with an X to show which of the three major championships you were running for. According to Wallace, the application said that a driver would be permitted to earn driver championship points in either the Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series beginning this season.

Limiting each driver the opportunity to run for only one championship per season will have no immediate effect on the Cup Series. The Nationwide Series however will have the opportunity to return to its original roots. The Nationwide Series in recent years has been a playground of sorts for Cup drivers with good equipment who could attract sponsors to go in and dominate the sport.

Last season, Cup driver Brad Keselowski beat fellow Cup driver Carl Edwards for the title as both ran the full Nationwide schedule in addition to their Sprint Cup duties. They were but two of the many Sprint Cup drivers who made at least one start in the sport, as sponsors were more than eager to put their name on the hood of a Sprint Cup driver’s car in the Nationwide Series. Sponsors knew that the chances were good that a Sprint Cup driver would give them more exposure for their investment than a Nationwide driver who, many times didn’t have the equipment or resources to be competitive against the Cup drivers.

No one really knows how the points will be awarded in the Nationwide or Truck Series this season but one thing for sure is that both series need the presence of Cup drivers to help put fans in the seats on race day.

It’s not only about the competition on race day, track owners know that if their Nationwide or Truck Series race has some big name Cup drivers in it, they will sell more tickets. A great example of that is Bristol which seems to always have a large number of Cup drivers pulling double or even triple duty during one of its two weekends each season. Kyle Busch won all three races in the August weekend which brought tremendous publicity to not only all three NASAR Series but also to the track.

The same can be said about the networks that televise Nationwide and Truck Series races. Just take a look back at the July Nationwide race held at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not only competing in the event, he was driving a car that had his late father’s famous #3 on the side of it. No other driver could have generated the interest in that event like that of Dale Jr. He wasn’t running for the championship, but by his being in the race it became one of the most anticipated stops on the entire Nationwide schedule.

Even though the Truck Series saw Cup drivers competing in most races, it was the Nationwide Series that was losing much of its identity. Cup drivers will still be racing on Saturdays, but now the Nationwide Series has the opportunity to regain its own identity as a series that gives younger drivers the opportunity to improve their skills and have a legitimate chance of actually being a championship contender.

Cup drivers will now know the big prize will be to make it to victory lane and that the bigger prize of winning the title will be within the grasp of more than just a couple of well-funded teams. That’s competition and that’s really what every NASCAR series needs and what every fan wants to see.

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