NASCAR Nationwide Series: Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. Have the Right Idea?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JULY 23:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, in his car in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

The NASCAR Nationwide series finds itself at a crossroads with changes they seek to implement with the second tier of NASCAR.

They want it to be the developmental series and well it should be, but with the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers winning the championships they somehow feel the Nationwide regulars may be at a disadvantage.

With Brad Keselowski back to a 228 point lead going into the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park, it appears he may be in line for this year's title in the series.

Last year Kyle Busch ran away with the NASCAR Nationwide points winning the title.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke from the media center at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the topic of keeping Cup drivers in the Nationwide series.

He said, "Young drivers that come up through the Nationwide series get recognition from out-running Cup guys that run in the series."

Earnhardt Jr. added, "Cup guys are as important to the series as the series is to young kids coming up.  There's got to be balance."

He continued making the point that the drivers from the Nationwide series that move to Cup have to be able to compete at that level.

The idea of taking away points from the Cup drivers has been bandied about.

Some will think that is the solution, but sponsors may not want to back a Cup driver who is basically running laps in a race and if they win it doesn't count.

Sponsors also know if the driver has no chance of winning a championship, it reduces the exposure they get.

Dale Jr. ran the Busch/Nationwide series and won in it. 

After forming JR Motorsports for the purpose of developing Nationwide drivers, he started stepping back from racing in the series.

When Junior does make a Nationwide appearance it is a big deal, as was the case with the Wrangler No. 3 win at Daytona.

So is Earnhardt Jr. making a contradictory statement about Cup drivers, being that he is no longer involved in running the series regularly? 

JR Motorsports has recently had Jamie McMurray and now Elliott Sadler in their No. 88 Nationwide car, so no he really isn't contradicting himself.

JR Motorsports also had Brad Keselowski driving for them and now he will be driving the "Blue Deuce" for Roger Penske next year and currently drives the Penske No. 12 Dodge.  He is ranked 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Keselowski is proof positive that a young driver with a good car can come through the Nationwide series and move into Cup. 

The young up-and-coming drivers that really have talent want to run with the Cup drivers because it challenges them.

The thrill of running well against the top-tier drivers and winning is what it is all about for them.

Earnhardt Jr. did say, "The series (Nationwide) seemed a bit stronger years ago, but he had no real way to know why I feel that way."

Perhaps many of us feel the same way. 

NASCAR racing just isn't the same as it was years ago and with fans stepping away from television broadcasts and not filling grandstands, the proof is evident.

We can only hope Brian France and his decision-makers look long and hard at the effects of changes they hope to implement.

Drivers, owners, sponsors and fan input must be carefully considered before changes are made for the sake of change.

 

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