What do we do with the Nationwide Series?
The NASCAR circuit used to be a glorious, wonderful Tour. It had stars, heroes, and fans all its own. Now it has fallen and lost its way. It does not have a place. NASCAR pretends it does and tries to convince us of that.
Nobody cares about Cup teams dropping down and winning the Nationwide championship and mopping the floor week after week in victories.
Nobody cares when a token headline is fabricated about the highest finishing non-Cup regular.
Smile and chuckle while fans and drivers call the tour what it is. Cup Light or a glorified Cup practice. Pick your poison. The Nationwide Tour is a fraction of what it once was: a great level in which only the chosen best could aspire to, not a stepping stone for some rich kid’s career. Young drivers are looking to get out as fast as they get in.
I wish NASCAR would stop the madness. This Series used to be grand and respected. Now it sucks. It has no identity.
If Camping World discontinued backing the Truck Series, we would still recognize what the Truck Series is. Now if Nationwide were to stop sponsoring the Series and a new backer was not signed, then exactly what would we call these cars? Once you sell something you know longer have it. The identity was sold. Good luck getting back what you accepted money for.
If the TV networks and speedways need the Cup drivers to sell tickets and boost ratings then the Nationwide Series management has failed miserably. In other words if you organize a race series, but need a host of drivers from a separate race series for success, then what the heck are you doing?
Fans complain that NASCAR should not allow Cup drivers to participate in Nationwide events. Fine, but now you get into defining every driver exclusively to one division. Jimmie Johnson is easy. Aric Almirola is not. A time frame would for better for regulating.
Here is my proposal. It is called the Competition Week and it works like this.
A driver can enter in one of NASCAR’s top-three series during a seven-day span. The week would begin on Wednesday and end on the following Tuesday. Any driver can pick one event and enter it. Cup, Nationwide, or Trucks, pick your one, and only one, race.
Fans would watch 122 different driving talents on one of the tripleheader race weekends.
This would keep one driver for one car entry and go as far as to cover loopholes such as the Daytona Thursday qualifying races, Bristol’s Wednesday Truck event, and any rainouts that push a race to a Monday.
When there is a Nationwide race on an off-Cup weekend then Cup drivers can go enter it. The same Competition Week rule and restrictions still apply.
There is no need to classify a Joe Nemechek, Bill Elliott, or Terry Labonte. The definition of what division they are allowed to drive in doesn’t have to exist. Let the calendar do the work for us. Jeff Gordon will easily be on the entry list that you expect. So will Michael Annett.
There are only so many open Cup seats. An entire generation of Saturday superstars would develop and make the Nationwide Series a career goal.
The strength and support of the sanctioning bodies and speedways would have to be committed for the long haul. This will take years to fix. The Nationwide Series didn’t break overnight. It won’t be fixed overnight either.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
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