One Way, Not Another: Will One Title Eligibility Rule Help Nationwide Series?
For stock car racing fans, one of the sport's newest rules changes might be one of the most polarizing ones in recent years.
While it's been a long time coming, on January 21st, it'll become official: per Dave Rodman's NASCAR.com article, drivers in the top three national title series must choose which division they'll compete exclusively for the championship.
Essentially speaking, for Brad Keselowski fans, unless the 2010 Nationwide Series winner decides to defend his title, Cup regulars like the Michigan native, or for that matter, any racer in their regular division, cannot gain points in another series.
The rule change will essentially crown a "regular" champion, which was sorely lacking in the past decade, particularly in the Nationwide Series.
Sure, champions like Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, and Martin Truex, Jr. each won their crowns while competing as Nationwide regulars.
However, they'd eventually get their "turn" in the Cup series during the same year they won their titles or the next.
Strictly speaking, save for Greg Pollex, whose driver Jeff Green won the 2000 title, every champion in the Nationwide Series since 1998 has a Cup affiliation.
Starting this year, that will most likely change, although the rule change does not bar Cup competitors or any other series regulars from entering other races.
They'll collect the trophy and money, but as far as race points are concerned, they'll be just like Dark Helmet and Lone Starr's relationship: absolutely nothing.
Nationwide Series regular Kenny Wallace found out about the rule change when he went to the post office and opened up his license application.
Making note that the application asks each applicant to put an "X" next to the series they'll race regularly for points, Wallace said, "Of course I checked 'Nationwide.' These are changing times."
Further details of the rule change will be announced in the "competition update" to be announced next Friday during the annual Media Tour in Charlotte, which unofficially kicks off the 2011 racing season.
As for the known details of the rules changes, it might be what the Nationwide sorely needs.
While not much of a problem in the Camping World Truck Series, as its champion has always been a division regular, the Nationwide ranks has been dubiously labeled as the "Cup Lite Series."
Last year, the sport made a radical change with the Nationwide cars, sampling the "Car of Tomorrow" body styles and greatly giving a new look to Triple-A stock car racing.
Tracks like Daytona, Michigan, Richmond, and Charlotte witnessed the arrival of Ford Mustangs and Dodge Challengers racing with the likes of sportier looking Chevrolet Impalas and Toyota Camry vehicles, bearing greater resemblance to their sister street counterparts than common template machines.
Just one look at last year's championship standings as well as the notable statistics and the problems are as resonant as the sound of 43 cars circling Daytona International Speedway. Witness:
- Six of last year's top 10 points finishers were Cup regulars (Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, and Joey Logano)
- Only two non-Cup regulars won a race in the Nationwide Series (Justin Allgaier and Boris Said)
- Busch, Harvick and Logano didn't compete in all the races, yet beat series regulars like Brandan Gaughan and Brian Scott
Sure, the rules changes may not be the exact answer or elixir for this alarming issue in NASCAR's "No. 2" series, but it's a step in the right direction.
Yes, there'll still be your "Insurance Frauds" (Cup regulars) who'll compete and dash for the trophy against the likes of Allgaier, Gaughan, and Scott, but the fact that they won't win the series title is somewhat of a positive result.
Think of it like this: imagine Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade going to the NBDL and winning that league's championship for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and also triumphing in the NBA all in one year - pretty wrong, yes?
Of course, the circumstances are somewhat different, as Miami's triumvirate wouldn't play in the NBDL, much less desire being demoted to the minors.
For NASCAR competitors, racecar drivers as a matter of fact, winning a race is all they want to do, be it a Whelen All-American Series harbinger at Motor Mile or the Toyota Showdown at Irwindale, Calif. held every January.
This latest rules change is certainly one that'll leave the fans and media buzzing with Daytona Speedweeks less than a month away.
Whether or not it's an effective or just amendment to the sport remains to be seen, but it may just be that the sport listens to the concerns of the fans after all.