Nationwide Series Woes Only More Magnified Following Daytona

By Brody Jones

Going into the 2011 season, there was some slight optimism that the “pick a series” rule would perhaps level the playing field a bit and maybe, just maybe, allow more focus on the actual Nationwide Series drivers. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same. ESPN continued to only focus on the Cup regulars, Danica Patrick, or Steven Wallace, virtually ignoring all the other drivers in the field. The Cup drivers continued to rue the day as the Nationwide regulars were, for the most part, nowhere near the front pack. And things are so bad for a couple of Nationwide series teams that, after years of racing competitively, the economy and a 20 percent purse reduction have forced teams like Baker-Curb Racing and Team Rensi Motorsports to start-and-park. And people wonder why I’m so pessimistic regarding the Nationwide Series?
Things are only going from bad to worse as right now, only 40 cars are scheduled to start at Phoenix. Teams such as Kevin Harvick Inc., Penske Racing, Phoenix Racing, Germain Racing (which has sold their owner points to Rick Ware Racing for rookie driver Timmy Hill), JR. Motorsports, and long-time Nationwide Series main-stays Day Enterprises have decided not to go to Phoenix. And after his only car was destroyed at Daytona, long-time NASCAR main-stay Jimmy “Smut” Means faces an uncertain future as well. So for the first time since California in 2008, the Nationwide Series is looking at not being able to fill the field for a race. I don’t think the NASCAR brain-trust (in particular those in charge of the Nationwide Series) can afford to just sweep these glaring issues under the rug anymore. It can no longer be denied that the Nationwide Series is very ill to the point of being in critical condition and if the Nationwide brain-trust doesn’t take the appropriate steps to cure the series, the harsh reality is NASCAR fans could be in a racing world without the Nationwide Series.
The weight added to the argument of Nationwide doom-sayers just continues to pile up as the economy, the costly addition of a Nationwide COT, and the 20 percent decrease in pay-out leaves the rich getting richer and the poorer one step closer to extinction. Of course, given the track record of Nationwide officials, they seem to be taking an ostrich approach to the issues by burying their heads in the sand and pretending the problems don’t exist. That or they do nothing about the issues. It’s obvious to any race fan with a clue that there needs to be some sort of purse increase and the Cup drivers need to have some sort of limit on how many Nationwide events they can start in a year. But, since that would actually make sense, we all know that’s never going to happen.
Phoenix needs to be a wake-up call for the Nationwide Series that with all the costly measures that these Nationwide teams have had to take, it only puts them further behind the eight-ball compared to the Cup conglomerate and if something is not done soon, much like the dodo bird, Zubaz pants, and Members Only jackets, the Nationwide Series will be the ex-Nationwide Series, as in it will cease to exist, to quote an old (and favorite) “Monty Python” sketch of mine. But, like so many times before, Nationwide officials are in denial that they have a serious problem and the ignorance of the series officials is not going to help save what was once a flourishing and thriving touring series.