For those of you, like me, who watched the Camping World Truck Series race this Saturday at Darlington, you probably noticed three things different from Cup and Nationwide fields:
- The field (36 entries) was smaller, meaning there was less chance to have bogus "start and park" trucks like there are with seemingly three to eight cars each week on the Cup circuit. As you can imagine, there were indeed fewer of these "start and park" situations, even if only 17 or so trucks finished on the lead lap.
- With fewer pit stops, strategy became that more important and with a shorter race, the stops became fewer, making each one that more precious and in which perfection must be done right.
- With no Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, or any of the other usual "Busch Wackers," the race was truly all the more enjoyable. At worst, a wily old vet like Todd Bodine, whom the larger circuit pushed out, found a home in a series that he can dominate in route to getting the win, which he did.
This got me thinking. How much more enjoyable would it be if Nationwide took this cue and not only wacked down the number of entries to maybe a similar 36 but also eliminated the top 35 rule? It would increase the viewing quality and eliminate the top 35 rule, which is doesn't make any sense. Cup could learn a lot from this too.
If you think you've read a bit about eliminating "Busch wackers" before, you may have as NASCAR is talking about it for next year. Let's hope they do it.
There is nothing more annoying than "watching" Nationwide, which I typically don't, knowing Busch or another of his cronies are just wasting their time and taking away shots from the kids who could be fast-tracked to Cup should they reel off a few wins as a result of less competition.
If Jeff Gordon "didn't seem to have it" for some reason on any given weekend, too bad. I guess he just doesn't make the field. But that is for another article but the same concept applies to Nationwide.
Series for Rookies and Veterans Only
Looking at the current Cup drivers, I see a few that could benefit from getting "sent down" to the minor leagues to work on their skill or quite bluntly, get out. This includes:
Hendrick Motorsports: Dale Jr, but since he's a marketing machine, we all know this won't happen.
Joe Gibbs Racing: None,
Richard Childress Racing: None. However, Bowyer could be kept on close watch.
Roush Fenway Racing: David Ragan, the posterboy of what I am trying to say. He's overmatched at Cup after a once promising start.
Penske Racing: Sam Hornish Jr and Brad Keselowski (at times).
Team Red Bull: Scott Speed.
Richard Petty Motorsports: AJ Allmindinger, Paul Menard, and Elliot Sadler. The likable Allmindiger could use some fine tuning every now and then. To continue his career, if America's Racing Team doesn't do a surprise signing with him, Menard belongs here as he could really benefit like Reed Sorensen has, and given his current sixth place standing in points, clearly is more comfortable here. Sadler, who currently doesn't have a 2011 ride, may end up doing this anyway.
Michael Waltrip Racing: None.
Stewart-Haas Racing: None.
Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing: None.
JTG Daugherty Racing: None.
Currently I've taken seven drivers out: Ragan, Allmindinger, Menard, Sadler, Hornish, Keselowski, and Speed, who all could benefit from being at the lower circuit. Additionally, given some more seat time and a better chance to actually compete, they could possibly (but not likely) move back up to the big team.
This weekend at Bristol, instead of a startig field of Busch-Edwards on the front row, followed by Harvick-Keselowski and Hamlin, which does no good (maybe mixed in with a Bayne (pictured above), how much better would it be if none of the above were involved and the starting grid looked like this:
- Row 1: Bayne-Keselowski
- Row 2: Truex (pictured left)-Allgaier
- Row 3: Ragan-Menard
- Row 4: Allmindinger-Speed followed by the usual Nationwide junk with Hornish somewhere in the middle since he's just an accident waiting to happen and belongs back in IRL.
Would you watch? I know I would. This series should be treated like the learning/developmental circuit that it could and should be.
I know many of you will say, "That is what ARCA or Busch Series East" is for but this would be one level higher, thus making the quality of competition better and since it's televised, we could literally see NASCAR's stars of tomorrow today.
But Who Fills in for the Cup Teams?
Should a driver like Keselowski get demoted, who takes over his No. 12 ride? Well, why not put a developmental driver like Algaier in that ride if only for the week to see what he can do?
After all, isn't that how Keselowski got his Nationwide ride in the first place two years ago? A three-race tryout with JR Motorsports?
I guarantee you, after one to three races of not being in "the show," drivers like Menard would either "put up or shut up." However, because they now have guaranteed rides with Daddy's money, they can continue to under perform.
All these Cup teams have developmental kids. In the teams I've suggested, try this minor league option of bringing people up. For example,
- MWR has Bayne and Truex.
- Hendrick has Landon Cassill.
- Penske has Algaier and Parker Klingerman.
- Roush has Brian Ickler, who is probably the most "Cup ready" or Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The problem arises, as you can see with Richard Petty Motorsports, the one team that needs this help the most, having no such drivers in either Nationwide or Trucks to promote since they don't have a development program for these two all-important series.
Obviously, with a can't miss kid like Bayne or Truex, you wouldn't want to rush them, or kill their very real chances at getting Raybestos Rookie of the Year in Cup whenever they make the jump, but it may be a good option with past-their-prime drivers like Sadler. He could be an improvement over Menard and Allmindinger and the time, resources, and effort RPM is having to devote each week into helping drivers who just don't have it.
At least Sadler gets a top 10 every now and again like he did yesterday at Michigan.
Veteran Circuit, too
But it's not just for rookies. Take Sadler's case, who likely won't have a ride for 2011. Won't see him anymore? Give him a chance in this circuit. Same for Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin, Morgan Shepard, or any other driver that just plain wants to run for the love of it but knows he can't compete on the top level anymore.
Joe Nemechek would be a perfect candidate for this role since he can't find funding at the Cup level enough to have him painfully "start and park" each week. Let him find his niche like Bodine clearly has.
Information and references from NASCAR.com, FoxSports.com, and Wikipedia directly contributed to the content of this article.