By Tim Packman
Special to NNSracing.com
MOORESVILLE, N.C. - The current debate among NASCAR decision makers and NASCAR teams is how to make the NASCAR Nationwide Series more identifiable and separate it from other divisions of NASCAR.
The Whelen Modified Series separates itself via the open-wheel structure of the cars. The same can be said about the Camping World Truck Series.
At times, it's tough to separate the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from Nationwide, one, because of the overlap from one into the other. Perennial contenders in the Sprint Cup Series like Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Penske Racing have dominated their "little brother" series in regards to wins and championships.
It's been a long time since a Nationwide regular won a race, with Justin Allgaier being the only one to do so at Bristol Motor Speedway's spring event this year. That, in turn, leads to a Cup regular becoming the Nationwide champion leaving the rest to get the scraps.
Brad Keselowski won this year's Nationwide Series championship, three races before the finale, driving for Penske Racing - a Cup team. Television coverage seems to center on the Cup drivers when they go Nationwide racing, track operators say Cup drivers sell tickets to Nationwide races and sponsors seem to partner up with Cup drivers for Nationwide teams.
So what can be done to prevent Nationwide racing become "Cup Lite" in the sport?
First, eliminate points for Cup drivers who are NOT driving full time in Nationwide. They can keep the money they win and the owners points accrued. They've earned them, and deserve them.
By keeping the drivers points in the Nationwide ranks, a true driver in the series can garner the points that would improve his standing in "his" series. Case in point, the 2010 season concluded with seven Cup drivers taking top-10 driver points positions.Three of them had 29 or less NNS starts with the other four having made all 35 starts.
Allgaier, who finished fourth in points, was the only NNS regular ALL season to win a race. The rest were all won by Cup regulars, who are also affiliated with Cup teams, and road-course expert Boris Said. That means only one race was won by a NNS-only team in 2010.
By taking away the driver points for Cup regulars who moonlight in the NNS, it would allow these lower ranking and underfunded teams the opportunity to obtain the marketing dollars and recognition they would need to survive. Those Cup drivers aren't in it for championship points anyhow, so they won't miss them very much.
Second, this is a way for NASCAR to award winnings to those who have put forth the effort to compete in a Nationwide Series race. With an average of seven to nine start-and-park drivers in every race, they're being rewarded much better than those who are there to put on a show.
Case in point, at the recent Texas Motor Speedway race there were five teams who "fell out" due to mechanical problems within the first 30 laps. For their effort, they were awarded winnings based on their finishing position, not how many laps they ran.
The 43rd-place car did all of three laps and won $14,721 earning $4,970 per lap. The 42nd- and 41st-place cars did 12 laps each and made about $1,240 per lap. They did this by purchasing just two sets of tires with a limited crew.
In turn, the 27th-place car ran 202, of 205, laps and was awarded $22,443 earning $111 for each lap competed. They did that purchasing the full allotment of tires, brought a full crew and were a contributing factor to the show. That same show fans paid for tickets to watch.
In 2011, the track contribution to the purse is being cut by 10 percent, meaning even less winnings to achieve. Thus, causing more of need to get a better sponsor and making cutbacks on the team and how it can operate more efficiently.
Someone needs to pro rate the amount of laps run instead of giving the start and park teams the money allotted for that finishing position. By doing that, those who contributed to the show and remaining on the track until the checkered flag - which is what those in the seats paid to see - should have their purse reflect their effort.
Again, these are just a few ideas to help make the Nationwide Series what it could, and should, really be for the sport, tracks, teams, sponsors and competitors - the Nationwide Series.