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XFINITY

Cup Veteran Limits Making Progress in XFINITY Series

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In the first year of limiting starts for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers in the XFINITY Series, progress is being made to increase the series’ focus on the sport’s rising stars. 

Competitors with five or more years of full-time experience at the top level are prohibited from competing in XFINITY Series Playoffs races.

While this keeps established names out like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and others who have dominated the series in past years, it allows the younger NASCAR Cup Series regulars still looking to make a name for themselves an opportunity to compete with other drivers with similar goals.

Saturday’s Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway marked the second XFINITY Series post-season race but first on a companion weekend with the top series.

As a result, young drivers including Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, and Erik Jones competed and ran well.

However, they didn’t steal the show as the race struck a balance between their success and strong performances from the championship contenders.

While Blaney won after leading a race-high 136 laps, rookie William Byron emerged as his biggest threat as the JR Motorsports driver led for 62 circuits, won Stage 1 and ended the day in third.

The run allowed Byron to jump to second on the Playoff Grid behind teammate Justin Allgaier who also had a strong race, finishing second.

Without limits on how many races the more experienced drivers can compete in, they often take up the top finishing positions. In eight races in 2017, at least four NASCAR Cup Series drivers placed in the top-five. 

That didn’t happen on Sunday as only Blaney finished inside the top-five with those in title contention filling the remaining spots with Daniel Hemric coming home third and Brennan Poole ending up fourth.

Similar restrictions will be in place for the remainder of the season, providing the opportunity for more events to play out similarly. 

Next season, those with five or more years of experience will be further limited to eight starts, and that should continue to enhance the identity of the series.

While ultimately a NASCAR Cup Series regular won on Saturday, it marked progress as the focus is on the youth of the sport and not the dominance of veterans. The limitations will pay off even more once series regulars are able to begin winning more regularly.

However, the first year of limits has shown its potential to improve the series and significant progress can continue to be made as the season draws to a close.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.