NASCAR will ban full-time NASCAR Cup drivers from the regular-season finale and playoff races in its developmental series starting next season as it tries to find a way to get more of its up-and-coming drivers to Victory Lane.
That change is the biggest among those announced Tuesday of having its Cup drivers compete in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.
* No driver who earns points in Cup can compete in the final eight races — that means regular-season finale and the seven playoff races — as well as the four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races. This year, the ban was on drivers with more than five years Cup experience with the championship race the only one where no Cup drivers can compete.
* Drivers with more than five years Cup experience are limited to seven Xfinity and five Truck races. This year, it was 10 Xfinity and seven Truck races.
“Fans have made it clear that they want to see the future stars of the sport racing against their peers in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series,” NASCAR senior vice president Jim Cassidy said in a statement.
“These guidelines achieve that and preserve limited opportunities for developing drivers to compete against the best in motorsports.”
The biggest concern is that cars would go away if the sponsorship to field them for a full season — approximately $5-6 million for a top Xfinity ride and $3 million-$4 million for a top truck — is not enough because sponsors aren’t willing to pay for drivers trying to establish their names.
“The only thing that it changes is I have to eliminate two races from my Xfinity schedule, and tied to that is a million dollars,” 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick, who expects that sponsorship will go to his Cup program, said a couple of weeks ago when he heard about the planned changes.
“Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, and we just need to make sure that we don’t cut it so fast that you cut all the sponsorship out when you get done with the Cup drivers being able to run enough races to tag along the guys that are trying to be developed.”
In Xfinity this year, drivers with more than five years full-time Cup experience have won six races — Kyle Busch has three with Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola having one apiece. Busch, Logano and Keselowski have seven starts, while Almirola has four. Paul Menard has made five starts, Harvick four, Denny Hamlin three, Reed Sorenson three and Kasey Kahne two.
Among those drivers who at next year will still have five years or less experience in Cup who have won in Xfinity this year: Kyle Larson (three), Erik Jones (two), Ryan Blaney (one). Larson has eight starts, Jones has 10 and Blaney has seven. Ty Dillon has started 17 races, Daniel Suarez 10, Austin Dillon nine and Corey LaJoie two.
In trucks this year, Kyle Busch has competed in five races and has two victories. Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon have competed in two apiece, and Elliott has one win.
Busch has viewed NASCAR’s limitations the last couple of years as focused on him. He has 89 career wins in the Xfinity Series and recently said once he hits 100, he would only race in events that he still has contracts to compete in as well as any that team owner Joe Gibbs might want him to run to verify the quality of equipment.
“We’ve always been joking for the last two or three years they’re going to kick us out and they are,” Busch said two weeks ago. “They’re trying year by year and race by race eliminating myself from competition in the Xfinity Series, so I figured I better hurry up and try to get to a number that I would think that is unreachable to others, and if I can do that then obviously that would just kind of be the end of it.”
Busch doesn’t appear to want to keep battling the issue in public.
“I don’t think that’s a battle I’ll ever win, so I’m best off keeping my mouth shut,” he said.