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Should Drivers Like Kyle Larson or Kyle Busch Race in the Lower Series?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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This past weekend, Kyle Busch won his 64th career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race with a dramatic last lap pass of Corey Heim. The win was not especially popular amongst fans, as is typical whenever a Cup Series driver wins a lower tier series race.

This season, eight lower tier series races have been won by Cup drivers, and those winners are Kyle Busch (2 wins), Kyle Larson (2 wins), A.J. Allmendinger (2 wins), Aric Almirola (1 win), and Joey Logano (1 win). All of these drivers are multi-time winners in the Cup Series, and three of them are Champions.

With that fact in mind, are we asking the right questions? Is the problem that Cup Series drivers are running races in Xfinity at all, or is the problem more so about which drivers are doing it? Could and should there be more limits on more successful Cup Series drivers in lower series?

How Things Used to Be

In all fairness, as frustrating as it can be for fans nowadays when a Cup Series driver wins in the lower series, it was even worse years ago. From 2006 until 2010, full-time Cup Series drivers won the Xfinity Series championship, and the vast majority of races were won by full-time Cup Series drivers.

As the years went on, NASCAR tried to curtail this by allowing competitors to only run for drivers points in one series per season. However, this did not really solve the problem as 27 of 33 Xfinity Series races in 2011 were won by Cup Series drivers. It also made sense for team owners to fill their lower series ranks with Cup drivers than up-and-comers as the series was originally intended.

Why would you put a younger, less marketable driver in a car, when you could just run your Cup Series superstar? This made it easier to attract big name sponsors, and it also meant your car would run up front on a weekly basis.

NASCAR continued to limit Cup drivers participation, and, nowadays, full-time Cup drivers with more than three full-time seasons are only limited to five Xfinity and five Truck Series starts per year. Cup drivers are also ineligible to run in the Playoffs, Triple Truck Challenge, or Dash for Cash races.

Nowadays, it’s pretty rare to see Cup drivers win Xfinity or Truck Series races, but, it still happens. A total of 8/35 races have been won by Cup drivers, which is 22.8% of races. The question becomes, how much further can NASCAR go?

What Further Limits Can NASCAR Implement?

NASCAR cannot go into the rulebook and ban Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, or A.J. Allmendinger explicitly from running in the lower tier series. If they want to disallow some, they have to disallow either everyone in the Cup Series, or everyone with similar accomplishments. So, NASCAR has to get creative, and here are some creative solutions should NASCAR go this route.

Ban ALL Cup Series Drivers

This is probably the simplest thing for NASCAR to implement. They can just say that you are allowed to run full-time in one NASCAR National Touring Series for a season, or they could just say you cannot drop down. That would solve all of the problems, but it would have to come with some contingencies.

If a Cup Series driver gets hurt, then are they allowed to call on the services of an Xfinity Series driver without compromising a championships run? That is something to consider should this rule try to be implemented.

Limit How Accomplished Cup Series Drivers Are That Run in the Lower Series

As was mentioned in the open of this story, every Cup Series driver to win an Xfinity Series race this year has won at least two races at the Cup Series level. Maybe NASCAR should implement an accomplishment threshold for Cup Series drivers competing in the lower series.

Maybe Cup Series race winners, or Playoff drivers from the previous year cannot run in the lower series. However, this comes with its own set of problems.

How can an Xfinity Series team sell sponsorship without knowing who will drive their car? Whoever is eligible to run a race next year could change week-to-week. This would have to be considered when trying to limit who Cup Series drivers could race for.

Limit Which Team Owners can Hire Cup Series Drivers

It’s also worth noting that these Cup Series drivers are racing in these Xfinity Series races in top equipment. Kyle Busch is racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports, A.J. Allmendinger for Kaulig, and Kyle Larson in a Hendrick-prepared car for Spire.

The issue comes with how to implement this specifically. It would cause an outrage amongst the big team owners if they were limited, but other owners were not. NASCAR would have to tread very carefully if they wanted to go this route.

Conclusion

It’s a legitimate question whether or not guys like Kyle Busch should be allowed to run in lower series races, but how to implement it becomes a big question. It’s murky waters at this point, and many people seem satisfied generally with the limits in place now. That does not necessarily mean it’s the best it can be, but does it really mean things need to change?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts