CRANDALL: Why everyone's missing the point about Cup drivers in Xfinity

Image by Jarrett/LAT

CRANDALL: Why everyone's missing the point about Cup drivers in Xfinity

Insights & Analysis

CRANDALL: Why everyone's missing the point about Cup drivers in Xfinity


The NASCAR Xfinity Series has been wearing a Band-Aid for the last month, and no one wants to talk about it.

Check that – the talk hasn’t been about the real reason the Band-Aid was applied.

There is a misconception when it comes to the second-tier division that the inclusion of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers is ruining it. And so this year, in its continuous effort to quiet the cries, NASCAR went further with its participation limits.

Among them was the determination that Cup Series drivers are not allowed to compete in any race where the Dash 4 Cash bonus is up for grabs. For the last four weeks – Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover – that’s translated to not a single Cup driver being in the Xfinity Series race.

That’s the Band-Aid. Funny enough, it worked.

Never has the series received such praise or had so many anticipating the next race. The racing has been good, went the shouts. Xfinity Series drivers are getting the attention they deserve, others claimed. These four weeks are the proof that Cup Series drivers don’t belong!

Now, pause.

Band-Aids are used to cover minor wounds. Cup Series drivers competing in the series is a minor problem. It is not the problem, as the constant complaints would seem to indicate.

The real problem is Cup Series teams putting Cup Series money into its Xfinity Series programs. And when you then put Cup Series talent behind the wheel, well, you should be able to see where this is going. For those who need it spelled out …

The best teams with the best cars using the best drivers are always going to beat the other guys.

Chip Ganassi Racing. Joe Gibbs Racing. Team Penske. Stewart-Haas Racing. They are just some of the successful and wealthy Cup Series teams that also run Xfinity Series programs.

Some of those cars will be occupied by talented, established stars like Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick: drivers who are going to be hard to beat every time they get behind the wheel.

The last four weeks didn’t change anything just because Cup drivers weren’t in the field. Those teams put other drivers in the car, and guess what? They were still successful! They still outran the teams many say deserve a chance without Cup drivers in the field.

Kaulig’s Ryan Truex is chased by JGR’s Brandon Jones in Phoenix. Image by LaBounty/LAT

True Xfinity Series teams like Kaulig Racing, GMS Racing and certainly those of JD Motorsports and Jeremey Clements Racing are being beat on talent while also getting outspent on a large scale. Probably goes without saying that the gap from one end of the garage to the other is quite wide.

The above tweet from NASCAR VP of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell is a perfect example of missing this point, as he appears to suggest that not having Cup Series drivers in the field solved a problem.

Can’t we find some other way to get the racing everyone wants other than banning Cup drivers? From what team owners – and even NASCAR – say, Cup drivers help sell tickets, draw sponsorship to their team and draw attention to the races. And yet we want to keep getting rid of them?

By letter of the law, these owners are doing nothing wrong. They want to succeed, and have the means to do it. The blame is just being misplaced. Good drivers are always going to rise to the top, especially when they are driving equally good equipment.

Good for the Xfinity Series getting positive attention the last four weeks, though. Certainly, it has been refreshing. But at some point, a firm decision must be made on where the Cup drivers stand. NASCAR officials finagling the rules each season to see how many races Cup drivers can or can’t run to try and please the crowd is not right.

Does the decision come in the form of going back to letting Cup drivers run as much as they want in their Cup-affiliated equipment because, again, no rules are being broken? Or do we say screw parity in the garage and create a spending cap to make everyone equal? How about we force Cup drivers to compete for non-Cup teams?

Time to figure it out. Because the thing about Band-Aids is, they don’t stick forever.