NASCAR Cup Series
Smaller Fields for NASCAR? No Problem.
The number of entries for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ races is decreasing.
After lowering the maximum cars to compete in a race from 43 to 40 in 2016, with the inception of the charter system, there have been several events over the past two seasons that haven’t even met the limit. It seems an entirely drastic change from the days of having enough cars to where some were forced go home after qualifying, like years past.
While the numbers and lack thereof has been a discussion since the changes two years ago, the topic has become a popular one among fans early in the 2018 season. The Daytona 500 only had 40 cars show up to the track, meaning for the first time in years, no one went home after the Can-Am Duels, with complaints saying that it took away much of the drama from the annual Thursday night races.
Then, the initial entry list for this weekend’s event at Atlanta dropped, revealing only 36 cars entered for the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500, which again sparked a lot of outrage among fans.
An outrage that featured many calling for the end of the charter system, and some going as far to say this is the beginning of the end for NASCAR.
So, that raises the question, are the doubters, right? Does NASCAR need to reevaluate the charter system? Are we witnessing the end of NASCAR before our very eyes? Is it time to start the doomsday countdown?
In fact, it should be argued that this may be a step in the right direction for the sport in looking at the names on at the entry list for this weekend’s race.
15 of the drivers entered this weekend have won within the last year, with nine of the remaining 21 competitors that haven’t seen victory lane in that time driving for organizations that have. Meaning, that over half of the field realistically has a fair shot of leaving Georgia this weekend with a trophy.
With all these drivers having a decent shot, it could be argued that the competition level is at a height not seen with a 40+ in the race. An entry list filled that likely was full of lower funded teams that, likely wouldn’t win unless if at a plate track, which Atlanta is not.
So, if the competition isn’t worse with fewer cars, what are other concerns that come along with smaller fields? Are fewer drivers getting opportunities?
Fair enough, while lower funded teams may not have a significant shot at success, there are numerous examples of veteran drivers getting their first Cup start with a lesser group, or a fan favorite, who may not have a full-time ride, seeing the chance to compete. Again, this isn’t a problem, as teams like Rick Ware Racing are giving drivers like Cole Custer and Harrison Rhodes their first rides in NASCAR’s top series. Meanwhile, a veteran of the sport, Brendan Gaughan, is still competing part-time with Beard Motorsports. Not to mention, none of them will have to start and park, as the act of doing so has died off with the charter system.
So, if the competition is in good shape and drivers are still getting opportunities, what exactly is NASCAR losing with a smaller field around the size of 36 cars? It’s simple – around four cars. That’s it, and it doesn’t have a huge overall effect on the action. It’s not killing the sport; it’s not even a significant number of cars missing. Yes, it is a change from what we are used to with NASCAR, but that doesn’t mean it will ruin the sport.
Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
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