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Pedley: Double-Dip Ban A Singularly Good Idea

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 12 2011

Double-dippers will not be able to ring up NNS championships if reports are correct. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

If media reports from this week prove correct, NASCAR will allow drivers to compete for championship points in only one of its major series at a time. The hope, obviously, is that the move will help pump more life into the Nationwide Series. The question is, will that hope be realized?

The story was first reported on NASCAR.com on Tuesday. The report said that when Kenny Wallace got his application for a 2011 NASCAR license, there was a box on it that asked him to put a check mark next to the series in which he plans to compete for points.

That’s new.

NASCAR had little to say about the situation except that news may be forthcoming during a “competition update” to be held as part of Preseason Thunder in Daytona on Jan. 21.

So, not addressed was the equally important situation with purses. That is, will Cup drivers who continue to double dip continue to collect top prize money in both series?

It’s tough to believe Wallace got an application with a misprint on it so let’s all assume this thing is happening – that this coming season, no driver will be able to win more than one series championship.

Good idea or bad?

Double dipping has long been a source of lively discussion.

Most vociferously in favor of it have been the race track operators. They say that it will be tough to impossible for them to sell tickets to Nationwide races if the big-name Cup drivers – like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard – opt out of the NNS.

Brad Keselowski may be the last double-dip champion. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

In racing, race promoters will argue, seats need butts. What good is great racing if nobody is watching? And if nobody is watching, collapse ensues, some will argue.

Particularly hard hit by double dip bans will be stand-alone races. It will most certainly tougher to lure fans to races in Nashville and Iowa with no Cup stars in attendance.

Some Nationwide drivers have supported double dipping as well, saying they love competing against the big boys of Cup. Helps them hone their game and gives pride a boost when they beat the Cuppers, they say.

Some Nationwide team owners have embraced the double dip, saying that having Edwards and Busch on the track attracts TV viewers and live spectators and, hence, potential advertisers for the smaller teams.

And you have to believe Nationwide Insurance likes double dipping because big stars give the company more Madison Avenue oomph.

But there has always been that substantial group of Nationwide teams and drivers and fans who have cried foul over double dipping. Long and short of it; they claim it takes desperately needed money out of their pockets while also harming competition by creating an uneven playing field.

I empathize with the foul-criers.

NASCAR has become a sport fueled by star power. Seeing great racing

Nearly full grandstands for the Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

for some new-school fans seems to be far less important than seeing big-name drivers.

Not me.

The situation reminds me of a guilty pleasure of mine – cooking shows on TV. The shows used to be about food and preparing good meals. Now they are about hip, impossibly good-looking, young “personalties” who, when the water boils, have trouble peeling a potato. Any person with “attitude” who passes a screen test at central casting can get a show on the Food Network these days. All they have to be able to do is read a cook book, pose and issue a signature catch phrase. The “Food Channel” and “Cooking Channel” now suck.

I think it will be interesting to see if a Nationwide Series can grow drivers, rivalries, compelling story lines and a following of its own over the next couple seasons.

It’s not unheard of. The Camping World Truck Series has traditionally had a thinner cord attaching it to Sprint Cup than has had Nationwide.  A driver or two may double dip or even triple dip from weekend to weekend, but for the most part, truck teams and drivers are truck teams and drivers.

And that series has – at least we are told – shown growth in grandstand and in A.C. Nielsen numbers.

In the end, of course, fans will determine whether booting the double dippers will strengthen the Nationwide Series. If fans buy tickets, if they watch on television, then sponsors will continue to fund the thing.

If not? Well, if the current NASCAR leadership regime has shown anything the last couple years, it’s a willingness to terminate failed experiments.

I say go for it.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 12 2011
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • WJC says:

    I have to wonder if the fans that will only go to a Nationwide race if it is loaded with Cup drivers are actually race fans. Real race fans don’t really care who is strapped in the seat, they just want good racin’. My favorite division is the Whelen Modified Tour (no big names-just great racin’). And I’ll stack the show they put on against anyone. Real racin’ can be found at any track on any Friday or Sat. night, not just at Charlotte or Daytona

  • Marybeth says:

    As long as we are going singular, how about one team = one car. It would encourage/stimulate a lot more teams & competition & hence, even sponsorship. It would help level the playing field, which seems to be the problem now.

  • SB says:

    So, the Cup drivers can still run every race, win the paltry purses away from the full time Nationwide drivers, then crown the 2nd or 3rd place points winner ‘champion’? How impressive is that? It would have been far more useful to limit the number of races a Cup driver could run in. There used to be drivers that made a career out of running the Busch series, making a nice living with a lot less pressure. Youn drivers had a chance to learn their craft, competing occasionally against a Cup driver or two in the race. Those days are long gone, and Nascar has done nothing to change it.