The NASCAR Nationwide Series is usually the final step for a driver whose ambition is to drive in NASCAR’s elite Sprint Cup Series.
Almost every week before a Sprint Cup race, there will be a Nationwide race at the same track. There are times when the Nationwide Series doesn’t run at the same track, or on the same weekend.
Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brian Vickers are Sprint Cup regulars who have all won a Nationwide championship.
It is not uncommon for these and other Sprint Cup regulars to participate in the Nationwide Series.
Last week in the Kroger 200 at O’Rielly Raceway Park, Sprint Cup regulars Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were on the starting grid.
In-climate weather caused a conflict with Brickyard qualifying, so Edwards, Busch and Kenseth had their Nationwide cars qualified by other drivers.
Because of pre-race driver changes, each driver had to start at the rear of the field. Edwards and Busch were the last two cars on the starting grid respectively.
During pre-race ceremonies, Kyle Busch was seen discussing something with Carl Edwards. Busch said, “We should always start at the back of the line.”
The question of having Sprint Cup regulars driving in the lower tiered series’, for example, Nationwide Series, has been a long running debate.
Busch, who is also a Nationwide Series regular, and is poised to win this year’s championship, could be onto something here.
Why not make the Sprint Cup drivers start in the back of the field, or better yet, why let them compete at all? Derek Jeter does not play in minor league games, and Tiger Woods does not use the amateur tee box, so why let the more experienced regulars of Sprint Cup compete in the Nationwide Series, or other lower tiered racing series?
Most teams say they run the Nationwide races to gather information for the following day’s Sprint Cup race. Last weeks Nationwide race and Sprint Cup race were run on two different tracks.
NASCAR has cut out all testing this year, so competing in the minor leagues could provide valuable information, right?
Just how valuable could this information be? Nationwide cars still have a shorter wheel base, a smaller engine package, and are not COT cars.
This of course will change next year, and may encourage more drivers to start pulling double duty each weekend.
Will we see a field of 35 or 40 Sprint Cup drivers attempt to qualify each week for the Nationwide race? What impact will this have on the teams who can only compete in the Nationwide Series? Will the smaller, underfunded teams be pushed out?
Is it possible we will soon see the same 43 drivers on Saturday and Sunday?
These are questions, and potential problems that NASCAR should be taking a hard look at before next season.
Starting a Nationwide race at the back of the pack doesn't seem to have much impact on Sprint Cup drivers. Edwards won the race and Busch finished second.