Cup Driver Limits Help XFINITY Series Competition, Hurt Bottom Line
NASCAR announced stricter limits on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver participation in the two lower series for 2018 this past week.
Full-time premiere series competitors with more than five years of experience will only be allowed to run seven NASCAR XFINITY Series and five Camping World Truck Series races next season.
Additionally, all NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be prohibited from competing in XFINITY Series ‘Dash 4 Cash’ and both level’s Playoff races.
These limits result from the dominance of veterans taking away from the spotlight meant to shine on the sport’s developing talent.
Kyle Busch captured his fourth win in eight starts this season in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International, further fueling support for the participation guidelines.
It marked Busch’s 90th career series triumph. Once he reaches a milestone 100 wins, he said he would retire from XFINITY competition.
The 32-year-old expressed his displeasure with the increased limitations following his victory and made it clear that the new rules will prolong his tenure in the series.
“I guess I should kinda say thanks that they guaranteed me another two-year contract, at least, from NOS Energy Drink in being in the XFINITY Series,” Busch told Clare B. Lang in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will be able to compete in two more races this season, before being limited to seven events next year which won’t put him at 100 wins until at least 2019.
While this may not please fans who are eagerly anticipating his exit from the series, the issue surrounding Busch and other Cup stars spans more than just competition.
It highlights the dynamic of sponsorship in the second-tier division. Many teams sell space on the car based on a prominent NASCAR Cup Series drivers splitting seat time with a rising talent. However, the participation limits restrict these opportunities.
“It’s industry wide,” Busch said. “It’s not just affecting me. It’s affecting the industry.”
Sponsors remain an essential avenue for teams to secure funding to field cars. From Busch’s perspective, the restrictions on veteran drivers may promote more compelling competition while making funding harder to find.
“When I’m gone, and there’s no NOS Energy Drink for even seven races, let alone it was 10, maybe it should have been 15 races,” Busch said. “When there’s 15 races that NOS Energy Drink is willing to pay for me to drive in the XFINITY Series, that lessens the gap that Joe (Gibbs) has to make up for somebody else to get into the car to be able to fill that car out and be able to make it a full-sponsored car and share with me.”
Striking a balance between creating an intriguing product and having the financial support needed to race remains the greatest challenge facing the XFINITY Series.
While the sport is committed to the path that favors providing greater opportunities to showcase its youth, and hopefully, it ultimately helps teams meet the bottom line.
But Busch believes the road that the series is going down may do more harm than good.
“And pretty soon, it’s not going to be feasible,” Busch said. “It’s not going to happen. There’s going to be cars that shut down because of that.”
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