On Tuesday, NASCAR held a meeting with Nationwide Series owners to discuss a variety of issues surrounding the series.
One issue was the topic of “double-dippers,” drivers who compete in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. Series Director Joe Balash said at Auto Club Speedway that they’d be discussing every option available.
Some owners were waiting for this meeting to happen so they could start to determine who they want driving their cars. With the new car, rising costs and fewer people willing to put up money, this meeting was important in that it could easily determine how the Nationwide Series is known down the road.
This year, as in year’s past, the issue has been the failure of Nationwide-only drivers to win races: Justin Allgaier is the only one to win a race this year and appears to be without a ride for next year due to his struggle to find sponsorship. With the lack of success of Nationwide-only drivers, sponsors who are looking into the series want a Cup driver to get them exposure.
The Nationwide Series is known for developing drivers and allowing them to grow into Cup drivers. Without funding, however, drivers can’t get the opportunity to compete and follow what was formerly known as the A-B-C (ARCA-Busch [now Nationwide]-Cup) program.
A couple different scenarios have been suggested to NASCAR, and each one was to be brought up for discussion on Tuesday.
In the first scenario, any driver who is in the top 35 in the Sprint Cup Points Standings would not be allowed to compete under the same structure as the Nationwide-only teams. This would allow the best Nationwide-only driver to be determined by the end of the year.
However, the negative side to that will be people questioning the validity of the championship. You’ll have those saying that, “Yes, so-and-so is the champion; however, this guy did this, so rightfully it is his.” Basically, it’d be the same game that was played when the Sprint Cup Chase to the Championship came out. Over time, that scenario has diminished with people complaining about validity; however, it took time, and in some people’s eyes, ended up taking a shot at NASCAR’s character.
The second scenario discussed would limit Sprint Cup drivers to participating in only one Nationwide Series practice session for each race while Nationwide-only drivers would get two practice sessions. With the new car going into full effect for next year and no additional testing planned after Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway in February, this proposal would give the Nationwide regulars a better opportunity to set up their cars.
The disadvantage is that, at times, Cup drivers have gotten no practice and still been able to set up their cars. They’ve done it by having a better feel for their cars during the race or during the previous Sprint Cup practices. Sprint Cup drivers are also more experienced, giving them an advantage in knowing what they need to do to run upfront.
The last scenario would limit the number of races per year that Sprint Cup drivers can enter. Some would set the limit as low as five, while others would set it at 12. Regardless, Nationwide-only drivers would get more opportunities behind the wheel due to the decreased availability of Sprint Cup drivers, hopefully allowing them to win more races and gain confidence by competing against drivers of similar ability.
The disadvantage to this scenario is that Sprint Cup drivers bring fans to the races and provide the Nationwide Series the majority of its current fan base. Eliminating these drivers for x-amount of races could possibly hurt the fan base, which in return would hurt ticket revenues and sponsorship money.
Regardless which scenario comes into play, Balash says they will look at everything.
“We’ll analyze points, no points, car rules, closed-top fuel systems and more,” Balash said. “Our thoughts are to position the Nationwide car so it drives and feels like a Nationwide car where one Nationwide shop is competing against another Nationwide shop. We can accomplish that by eliminating the rear sway bar, to save money with tapered spacers and new gear rules.
“The key is to make the cars safer, eliminate additional costs and make our series unique on the racetrack.”