Woody: Single-Title Rule Won’t Cure Nationwide Series’ Woes
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
NASCAR deserves credit for its reported change that will limit drivers to one championship a season. It is intended to provide some relief for its second-tier Nationwide Series, in which
Nationwide-only teams are gasping for air.
Unfortunately it probably won’t help.
The new rule will prevent big-league Cup drivers from making off with the Nationwide championship as they have done year after year. Starting this season, every driver will have to choose one – and only one – series in which he is awarded championship points.
But not being title-eligible won’t stop a considerable number of Cup drivers from continuing to race in the Nationwide Series. And as long as they do, they’ll continue to dominate every race they run.
The big Nationwide races with the juicy paychecks will continue to be chock full of Cup drivers. Just because they aren’t running for the series title won’t keep them from sopping up most of the gravy in individual races.
What the new rule will likely do is eliminate Cup racers from some of the smaller, stand-alone Nationwide events. Since they’re not racing for championship points they’ll be less likely to
pull one of those grueling Cup/Nationwide weekend doubleheaders for a relatively small paycheck.
But even that may have dire consequences. At such stand-alone Nationwide races – such as the two annual ones at Nashville Superspeedway – having a few Cup stars in the lineup helps sell tickets. Most of the pre-race advertising is focused on the Cup drivers because, as track GM/VP Cliff Hawks notes, that’s who the fans want to see.
Eliminating Cup drivers from the lineup could prove detrimental to a track already struggling to fill seats.
The one thing the new regulation will do is assure that a Nationwide-only team will finally win the Nationwide championship. But that could be a hollow triumph if Cup drivers win all
the races in which they’re entered. The Nationwide trophy would be engraved with an asterisk.
It’s a costly trade-out: dampening Nationwide ticket sales at tracks that can least afford it for the sake of crowning a pure Nationwide champion.
The dilemma is not NASCAR’s fault. It knows it has a problem and to its credit it’s trying to do something about it. But it is searching for a solution that may not exist.
When it comes to Cup raiders, the Nationwide Series can’t live with them and – probably, we’ll discover – it can’t live without them.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments