NASCAR faces an interesting situation with its Nationwide Series. Does it want the series to be the training ground for future Sprint Cup drivers, or do officials want the series to be more popular with fans and make more money?
It seems there can’t be both. For the Nationwide Series to really draw fans, it needs Cup drivers in the fields. If Cup drivers are in the fields, the development of younger drives takes a hit. The way the series currently works makes it less likely Cup drivers will make many starts, because the cars being used are so different from the Cup cars.
Driving two cars in two days that don’t react the same would seem to be, if anything, detrimental to drivers. Seriously, is it a coincidence that Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, who drive regularly on both circuits, are struggling so mightily this year in Cup?
Jeff Gordon, for one, believes not driving in the Nationwide Series right now is the right move for Cup drivers.
“I’ve been saying that for years,” he said. “Everybody is, ‘How come you don’t run the Nationwide Series?’ I think that’s a smart move. I think, especially these days, the cars being so different, it doesn’t make any sense.
“Listen, the bottom line, you want to know why those guys are running Nationwide races? For money. They’re wanting extra money. The sponsors are there supporting the car owners to run the series. Those guys are able to make extra money. That’s why they run it. Of course, somebody like Kyle, you know, has the opportunity to go win a championship, or Carl, then, hey, why not do that, too? But the Cup drivers that are over there, that’s why they’re doing it.”
And to think all along we thought it was just because they loved the competition. As the series begins a change to its cars, it will be interesting to see if more or less Cup drivers will compete. Of course, when Danica Patrick runs a few Nationwide events next year, my guess is the fans will turn out and the sponsors will come pouring in.
And then, if Gordon’s logic is true, we’ll see more Cup drivers in the fields.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...