Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Why Are Big NASCAR Cup Series Teams Not in the Xfinity Series?

Article Contents

The Daily Downforce is Hiring Writers

Article Contents

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts

What’s Happening?

Of the 15 full-time NASCAR Cup Series race teams in 2023, only 4 have full-time Xfinity Series programs, and two other teams have full-time Truck Series programs. That means only 6 Cup Series teams have a formal, full-time, lower series program. Those without such a program include Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, and RFK Racing, but, why?

  • Each of these race teams used to have full-time Xfinity Series programs. However, they have scaled back their involvement to little or no Xfinity or Truck Series races.
  • Ford, in particular, has publicly discussed how they value different series. This may explain some of why RFK and Penske left the Xfinity Series.
  • Fans have some nostalgia for these old Xfinity Series efforts. Some do wonder why these teams do not race in the lower series more often than they did.

Hendrick Motorsports

Rick Hendrick has had off-and-on involvement in the lower series during his time in NASCAR. Throughout the 1980s, he fielded part-time rides in the Xfinity Series. He moved into the Truck Series throughout the 1990s where Jack Sprague won multiple Championships. Hendrick moved back to the Xfinity Series throughout the early 2000s, and that is where Kyle Busch got his start.

Since he left the Xfinity Series in the late 2000s, Hendrick has made part-time attempts in the Xfinity and Truck Series. Chase Elliott ran in 9 races for the team in the Truck Series in 2013, and they dabbled in the Xfinity Series with 10 races between 2022 and 2023.

Why did they jump out? Well, in 2008, Dale Earnhardt Jr. signed with Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports. With JR Motorsports’ owner in the building, there was no real need for an extra race team.

According to Kelly Crandall of RACER.com, Hendrick returned to the Xfinity Series because of a lack of inventory from JRM. Hendrick Motorsports President and General Manager Jeff Andrews had this to say to Crandall in 2022 about moving back into Xfinity.

As we started to go forward and went to our drivers and asked them to pick out where they thought they’d want to run an Xfinity race, road courses came to light very quickly on the list. But JRM already had those races sold for somebody else in their fifth car. So we decided to just take that initiative and do it ourselves.I don’t know that we’ll do that again. I think if we had it to do over, we’d probably have gotten more in front of it with JRM and secured seats in that fifth car.

Jeff Andrews

Obviously, Hendrick did it again in 2022 and 2023. Maybe they will continue to expand their Xfinity Series program as time goes on.

RFK Racing and Team Penske

Both RFK Racing and Team Penske were once fixtures in the Xfinity Series. Both left the series in recent years.

RFK Racing left after the 2018 season. In an interview on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, then Roush-Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark mentioned both a lack of sponsorship and a focus on improving their Cup Series program. Roush-Fenway Racing was struggling during the late 2010s in the Cup Series.

Penske announced they were leaving Xfinity following the 2021 season. According to Dustin Long of NBC Sports, Team Penske Vice Chairman, Walt Czarnecki mentioned sponsorship as a reason.

For both race teams, sponsorship played a role. For Roush, allocating more resources to a struggling Cup Series program was a factor. Both make sense as sponsorship is absolutely necessary for any race team, and an Xfinity Series team costs a lot of money. This means less of a team’s potential resources go toward a Cup Series team.

Both are also Ford teams. Ford has said publicly that they value the Truck Series higher than the Xfinity Series. Ford Performance Global Director, Mark Rushbrook, had this to say.

We see a benefit to Trucks in terms of the marketing and driver development. Obviously, with Mustangs racing in Cup and the teams that we have, there is not as much value in Xfinity. And not even necessarily the need for a driver to go through Xfinity to get to Cup as you’ve seen with Todd Gilliland going from Trucks to Cup…In order of priority, we actually put Truck at a higher priority than we do Xfinity.

Mark Rushbrook

What’s the point of fielding an Xfinity Series team if the manufacturer does not value it that highly? That does not explain staying out of the Truck Series, but, it does give some insight into the mentality of Ford teams.

Will these teams continue to stay out of the lower series full-time, or will they jump back into it? Time will ultimately tell.

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

Share this:

Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts