Over the last few years, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has turned into what many observers call "Cup Lite." Every year, a few Sprint Cup drivers have also run most, if not all, of the Nationwide Series races as well. This, and the resulting influx of Sprint Cup owners, has taken the Nationwide identity away. Ever since the short fields of the mid-2000s, more and more Sprint Cup drivers have been cast in the lower series, and the success of these drivers have caused more and more owners to put these drivers in their cars instead of any promising driver or crafty veteran. The influx of new drivers has dried up, leading to Sprint Cup having Kevin Conway and Andy Lally as leading rookies. Sponsors want a brand name, which is why the Nationwide-only teams have dried up, leaving Cup owners to put multiple Cup drivers in a car and run it full-time. The Top 30 locked-in rule has helped some, as has the new 1 series points rule, but more needs to be done.
The "Buschwhackers" need to be limited in how many races they drive in the Nationwide Series. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there weren't Cup drivers who drove the whole schedule. From 1997-2003, no driver except Kevin Harvick drove a full schedule and Harvick was committed to the Busch schedule before he got his Cup ride. The only Cup drivers who drove more than 20 Busch races in any season were Harvick, Todd Bodine, Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, Jeff Green, Jimmy Spencer, Matt Kenseth and Dick Trickle. These years were arguably the most popular in the series, with a great mix of veterans and rising stars, so it shows that this series can be good without the Cup guys every week.
Having stand-alone races would also give the series its own identity. Back over the last decade, many tracks have gone away in favor of creating super weekends at all Cup tracks. These other short tracks, road courses and intermediate tracks helped shaped the image of the series when it was at its best. While the super weekend is good for the race fans and profits, it makes it all too easy for drivers to jump from one series to the next.
Maybe other solutions need to be tried, such as using cars of different makes, models and specifications than Cup. Or maybe the schedule needs to be shortened to 30 races. How about making Cup drivers own their own Nationwide cars, or having Cup drivers drive for a different owner than their Cup owner?
Regardless, NASCAR needs to do more to fix the Nationwide Series and put it back to its glory days when it had its own drivers, tracks and identity in order to bring back the owners, drivers and fans that it has deserted over the last few years.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!