Is It Fair for Sprint Cup Drivers to Race in the Nationwide Series?

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IJanuary 20, 2014

Kyle Busch won 12 times in 2013 Nationwide Series competition.
Kyle Busch won 12 times in 2013 Nationwide Series competition.Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

There was a time, not so long ago, when the Nationwide Series featured young drivers that were mastering their craft for a year or two before making the jump to the next level.

Those days seem like a distant memory. More and more, Sprint Cup regulars and former Cup stars that are unable to latch on to a ride in the premier division fill the Nationwide Series races.

The question is, is it fair for the Sprint Cup drivers to run in the Nationwide Series?

Ultimately, the easy answer is no, it is not fair. Unfortunately, it is far more complicated than just disallowing Sprint Cup drivers to participate.

NASCAR is an expensive sport, and the best way to cover some of the costs of racing is to win. In a series where the prize money is far inferior to that in the top division, many owners depend on the talent and experience of Sprint Cup veterans to bring in as big of a payday as possible.

Then there are the sponsors. More and more, sponsors are only willing to back drivers that are already well established in the sport.

Just as it costs teams a lot of money to go racing, the costs for sponsors are not cheap, and businesses want to get the most return on their investments. The best way to do that is with drivers already established at the top level.

Forget about the financial and sponsorship side of things. One potential drawback to Nationwide Series races littered with Sprint Cup talent is that it puts a big concern on the future of the sport.

Instead of a series where young drivers have the opportunity to make a name for themselves and grow into future stars, NASCAR's second-tier division has become nothing more than an opportunity for the top drivers to add to their extensive trophy collections.

Looking at the recent Rookie of the Year Award winners in the Sprint Cup Series, one realizes that the Nationwide Series is not producing new stars like it once was.

Prior to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. winning the award in 2013, Stephen Leicht, Andy Lally and Kevin Conway were the last three drivers to win the prestigious award for first-year drivers.

None of those three drivers currently drives in any of NASCAR's top divisions and only Conway competed in any races (three to be exact) following his rookie season.

Sprint Cup drivers dominate the Nationwide Series.
Sprint Cup drivers dominate the Nationwide Series.Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

When Sprint Cup regulars compete in the Nationwide Series events, it is nearly a foregone conclusion that one of them will win.

In 2013 alone, Sprint Cup drivers accounted for 28 wins out of 33 races, and two of the five races won by Nationwide Series regulars were events that did not coincide with a Sprint Cup race, so no Cup drivers entered.

In the last five seasons, non-Sprint Cup drivers won only 29 of 168 races, a win percentage of just 17 percent for the Nationwide Series regulars.

Sprint Cup regulars competing in the Nationwide Series is not a new trend. However, with so few competitive rides available in NASCAR's second-tier division, their dominance has grown increasingly.

In the last three years alone, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have scored a combined 48 victories in Nationwide competition out of a possible 100 events.

It would be nice to see the Nationwide Series return to a time when it was not completely overrun and dominated by the premier division's competitors. Then, maybe winning the championship would be meaningful, and new stars would have a better opportunity to be born.

Unfortunately, there is not much that NASCAR can do about it. Sponsors want the top drivers and the drivers love the opportunity to go out and race in cars that are capable of winning every week.

The Nationwide Series was once a place to see NASCAR's next generation. Now, it is nothing more than a lead-in to the Sprint Cup Series event featuring the same drivers.

While those races give a handful of Cup stars the opportunity to pad their stats by scoring countless victories, Sprint Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide Series does nothing good for the sport.