Enough is Enough: It’s Time to Address Cup Drivers in the Xfinity Series

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KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 15: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 15, 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Kyle Busch claimed his 9th Xfinity Series win of the season this weekend at the Kansas Speedway. This sparks the age old debate question: Should Sprint Cup Series drivers be allowed to race in the lower tier series?

Enough is Enough: It’s Time to Address Cup Drivers in the Xfinity Series

Creation and Intention

The Xfinity Series began with good intentions. It was meant to be a series for developing drivers as well as a series that drivers who aren’t good enough for Cup to run in. That quickly shattered when the liked of Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin would arrive. These drivers ran a majority of the races and would smoke the competition in the late 80s and and 90s. This really limited the amount of wins actual Xfinity drivers could contend for..

Most current Cup series drivers are young; around 18-21. The drivers that come down are typically 30+ and often Sprint Cup Champions. These young drivers have barely got their foot in the door and are already fighting against Kevin Harvick.

For a series with the slogan “Names are Made Here”, that is unacceptable. Nobody has the chance to make a name for themselves when they are staring at Kyle Busch’s bumper as he effortlessly defeats them. Kyle Busch’s dominance in the Xfinity Series makes him the worst offender. The 2009 Xfinity Series Champion has won more races in the series than anyone. With 85 Xfinity Series wins, 9 in 2016, it seems nobody can stop the Kyle Busch show.

Cup Winners in 2016

The 2016 season alone Cup drivers have won a staggering 19 out of the 30 races run so far. Here is a list of all Cup regulars who have won this season:

Kyle Busch- 9 wins

Austin Dillon– 2 wins

Joey Logano– 2 wins

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Denny Hamlin

Kyle Larson

Michael McDowell

Chase Elliott

Aric Almirola

An Xfinity Series regular didn’t win in 2016 until when Erik Jones won in the seventh event.

Attempted Control

The Cup series invasion comes at a price. Most of the Cup drivers don’t race for points. This is because after the 2010 season NASCAR implemented a rule stating the Cup drivers would no longer be eligible to receive points in any but their primary series. This rule was put into place after Cup Series regulars won every Xfinity Series championship between 2006 and 2010.

The rule change has not stopped some Cup drivers. The worst being the 2013 season when Cup drivers won 84% of the races. Austin Dillon won the Championship having not won a single race that season. Second place Sam Hornish Jr. won only once. These statistics have angered fans to the point that attendance and TV ratings have plummeted. Fans lash out on social media condemning these drivers and NASCAR for letting this happen.

Cup drivers have also had a major impact of the outcome of important races in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. Here are a few instances in which Cup drivers affected the result of a lower tier championship:

2011 Winstar World Casino 350k:

Kyle Busch had been battling Ron Hornaday mid-pack for position early on. Hornaday bumps Busch and puts them both into the wall. Busch retaliated by dumping Hornaday in turn three, taking them both out. Busch was parked for the Texas Cup race and Hornaday was eliminated from Championship contention.

Brad Keselowski vs Carl Edwards Gateway 2010:

Edwards and Keselowski were racing to the finish when Carl Edwards turned Brad Keselowski. This caused a significant accident, taking out numerous Xfinity regulars. This included some from lower-funded teams. Considering that these drivers come from well-funded teams, it was a big blow to those smaller teams.

2015 Alert Today Florida 300:

This Xfinity Series race was the event in which Kyle Busch broke his leg. This sparked a lot of fans to say Kyle Busch didn’t deserve his waiver because he should not have been in that race. Regardless of what opinions there are regarding this race, it is clear that running Xfinity races can still injure these Cup regulars and effect their Cup careers.

2013 Ford Ecoboost 300:

In this event was a two-way battle for the championship between Sam Hornish Jr and Austin Dillon. Hornish needed to finish as far ahead as Austin Dillon as he could. He qualified on the pole and finished eighth. With his finish, Hornish lost the Championship by 3 points. Who finished ahead of him? His Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Had they been behind him, Hornish would be crowned champion.

Now that the Chase format is in the Xfinity and Truck Series, wins are more important. With 19 races won by Cup drivers so far, that’s 19 chances for some regulars to win and make the Chase gone. Some prime examples have been Aric Almirola stealing the July Daytona win from Justin Allgaier, Kyle Busch taking the Chicago truck win over Daniel Hemric, among others.

Four Possible Solutions

  1. Ban Cup drivers from the lower series entirely. If this means Xfinity races only contain 30 drivers, then so be it. The sponsors would need no longer support Cup drivers in the Xfinity series. If they want to sponsor Carl Edwards or Kyle Larson, limit this to their Cup rides. The only exemption are Sprint Cup rookies of the year candidates.
  2. Limit the Cup drivers to no more than five races of their choosing annually. That is five races in either Trucks or Xfinity, not both. This would make the drivers question weather it is truly worth it to pull double duty.
  3. Tell the Cup drivers they can run as many races as they want, but the Xfinity and Cup series will never race at the same track during the same weekend. For example, if the Sprint Cup was at Dover, the Xfinty series would be at Fontana. The only exemptions are Daytona in February and Homestead in November. This will make travelling in between the tracks next to impossible for the Cup Drivers.
  4. The last suggestion is to make a rule stating that any previous Sprint Cup Champion is prohibited from running lower tier races in a NASCAR sanctioned series. They have won a championship in the highest level of NASCAR. They don’t need to be racing in the lower series anymore.

Final Thoughts

At they end of the day this whole dilemma is entirely subjective. Some people enjoy it, others hate it. This debate has been going on for years. There is no doubt that there is a problem in the Xfinity series. The Cup drivers are causing the ratings and attendance to go down. As a fan watching the series its gets tiring the names of the Cup drivers all at the front. It is repetitive and stale.

Seeing the same driver dominate every week isn’t good for a series where names are supposed to be made. These drivers don’t give the up-and-comers a chance when they dominate the series every week. There is no doubt Daniel Suarez would have more than two wins this year without Cup drivers. It is said that NASCAR is thinking about doing something about the Cup drivers, but that change could potentially come a little to late.

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