By Joe Dunn
They used to call them the Bushwackers, but it is no longer the Bush Series, so what do you call the Cup drivers in the NNS series now, and how can NASCAR help the teams. I heard one writer calling them the Widewackers, but I can’t swallow that one. Why don’t You, the readers give me your ideas?
The NASCAR Nationwide Series has been around for a long time, it used to be the Bush Series, the Bush Grand National Series, the Grand National series and the Sportsman Series. Whatever name you call it, it has been the proving grounds for up and coming Cup drivers. There has always been a sprinkling of Cup drivers in the show, but mostly at companion events, but never with the numbers we are seeing today. At Chicagoland there were 16 Cup drivers in the field, 11 of which are full time drivers, in the top 35 in points.
When NASCAR changed the rules to guarantee starting spots for the top 35 teams in the Cup series owners points, they added the top 30 in Nationwide to a similar plan. That means that top drivers in the cup series can basically be assured a starting spot in the show, bumping out the smaller teams and the teams that make most, but not all of the races. I like the old rules in the Bush Grand National Series better.
Back then, Nobody was locked in, everyone had to qualify, but there was a buffer for the top drivers in the series. For those who are new to NASCAR, or who don’t remember, here is how it worked. The first 36 spots were filled according to qualifying speeds, spots 37 thru 42 went to the driver highest in drivers points who failed to qualify in the top 36. The 43rd spot was reserved for a past champion and if none, the next driver in points. Now this sounds like it would not alter the slew of cup drivers in the show Except, no driver in the top 25 in Cup points could take a provisional in the race. I liked that system a lot better, it was much more fair for the Regulars in the show, and the series top drivers were still protected.
I find it sad that we see Champion after Champion in the NASCAR Nationwide Series who is a Cup regular, usually with a top team in the Cup series. I know that they need some of these Cup guys to fill the stands and to draw sponsors, but enough is enough, give the series back to the guys that are dedicating their time to the series. How about Cup drivers in the top 25 in drivers points in that series, not earn driver’s points in the NNS.
Another tough deal coming for those less than full time, and less than top dollar teams is the new COT for the series in 2010. From what I have heard, NASCAR plans to run the car in 5 races, the two road courses, that won’t affect most of the part time teams, as they tend to avoid them, but when it comes to the super speedways, that will be another story. Over the past 10 years, the season opener for the Nationwide Series at Daytona International Speedway has drawn an average of 51 cars. With the new car being mandated there, the idea of filling a 43 car field may be a stretch.
Sure, the bigger and more well funded teams, such as Roush-Fenway, Richard Childress Racing, JR/Hendrick Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing already have some of the new cars, but what about teams like ML Racing, Johnny Davis, Jay Robinson, Rick Ware or even Wayne Day? Will they be able to afford buying or building multiple COT cars for a handful of races? I think Not!
And if this goes according to plan, and the car replaces the current car in 2011, what are these teams to do with their stock of cars and parts? When the Cup series changed over, it was like a holiday for the ARCA teams. Used Cup cars were selling for pennies on the dollar, there are still cars laying around to be had cheap. But what about the Nationwide cars, they are the wrong wheelbase for ARCA, what series could use these cars? Perhaps this would be a good time for another lower class series to start up, but who has the funding to do that? NASCAR could do that to help these teams, but don’t hold your breath.
Like on the Cup side, NASCAR says that the idea of the new car is to have a safer, more affordable car for the series. But is there any doubt that the Nationwide teams don’t have the funding or sponsor money for such a wholesale change? With all of the financial challenges these teams face, I say it is time for NASCAR to step up to the plate and provide some real help. For too many years now, NASCAR has filled their coffers with sponsor money that could be more beneficial to the sport by going to the teams. At the Spring Nationwide Race at Nashville, the field included 19 cars that carried partial sponsors, one off sponsors or no sponsors at all. These teams are running ‘out of pocket’ for purse money and the hopes of finishing well enough to draw some kind of sponsor money in the future.
The future does not look good for the small teams that are the backbone of the Nationwide series, and that is without even thinking about the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Without some serious hard work coming from the big office in Daytona to help these teams the future of the series is hard to predict, but I’ll still be pushing for the underdogs cause that is the old time NASCAR way.