Interview

Anti-Busch Rule? Drivers React to Participation Guidelines

Last week, NASCAR announced a new series of guidelines regarding the amount of races Sprint Cup Series competitors could run in the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series.

Drivers with more than five years of full-time experience in the Sprint Cup Series will only be allowed to run a maximum of 10 XFINITY races a season, with no starts during the final eight races or four Dash 4 Cash races.

“I definitely agree with not running in the Chase races or cutoff races for those guys because there’s just too much at stake for those racing for the championship in trucks and XFINITY Series, especially when you have a guy that’s trying to get a first time win and move himself onto the next round of the Chase and a Cup or XFINITY driver moves down and was to win, I guess you could say it’s a level playing field, but they’re in the Sprint Cup Series for a reason,” Denny Hamlin said. “They’re really good drivers and obviously I think the end result of all this is going to be positive, it’s going to make for exciting races and those guys, all these stand-alone events have had great races. I think you could potentially see even more action with Trucks only or XFINITY only drivers participating in their own series.”

The decision comes from NASCAR after watching five to 10 Sprint Cup Series drivers run in the XFINITY Series at companion events, with 19 of the 30 XFINITY races this season being won by Sprint Cup Series points-eligible drivers. Last year, 23 of the 33 XFINITY races were won by Cup drivers.

“I think that’s great,” Brian Scott said. “I think that’s what this series needs to build names and give drivers opportunities and experience at winning races and getting into Victory Lane.  I guess on a selfish level I wish they would have done that five years ago when I was competing in those series because I’d probably have a lot more wins.  I think it’s great.  I’m excited to watch the young up-and-coming drivers get more experience at winning and get into Victory Lane and making names for themselves to ultimately pursue their dreams of probably racing in the Sprint Cup just like I did.”

Though while there’s been an influx of drivers, some wonder whether it’s based on one single person – Kyle Busch.

While there seems to be a sense the rule comes about due to multiple Cup drivers in the series, it’s worth noting Busch has been known for making the most XFINITY starts of his competitors. Also, he has also created a pattern of winning a lot over the past five years. Last year he won six races in 15 starts while winning nine races in 16 starts this year. Each weekend he’d win, social media would light up with comments from fans stating he was stinking up the series for the other drivers.

“I think it’s a rule change that somebody felt needed to be done – fans, media, whoever doesn’t like that Kyle Busch wins so much,” Brendan Gaughan told POPULAR SPEED last week. “So they’ve made a rule to protect against Kyle Busch. I don’t think we have a Cup driver problem. I think we have a problem with one driver and people don’t like it. I want to race against him each week so I don’t care. I want to race against him and try to beat him every week, so I can get better. So for me, it’s a rule they’ve made, it’s in place and it’s done. We’ll fight through it; we’ll keep racing, and hopefully it results in some more wins for us. But in the end, I still wish they were racing against us.”

In reaction to the rule, Busch told USA Today he believed the guidelines were made to “eliminate the strongest force of competition” and saying it is Kyle Busch 2.0 as “there’s already been a Kyle Busch Rule years ago when they made the rule when I was 16 and got booted out.” Busch was racing in the truck series at the age of 15, but NASCAR increased the minimum age mid-season to 16, requiring Busch to take the rest of the season off.

Through the years, Busch hasn’t been the only driver to dip his toes in the second-tier division as he has been joined by Kyle LarsonAustin DillonKevin HarvickBrad KeselowskiJoey Logano and others. Notably, Larson and Dillon are not subject to the rule yet, as the 2017 season will mark their fourth full season of Sprint Cup competition. A breakdown of the past two seasons in XFINITY for these six drivers can be seen below.

Driver ‘16 Starts ’16 Wins ’15  Starts ’15 Wins
Kyle Busch 16 9 15 6
Austin Dillon 4 1 8 1
Kevin Harvick 6 0 12 2
Brad Keselowski 13 0 9 2
Kyle Larson 14 1 14 1
Joey Logano 13 2 11 4

Logano says he understands the reasons for the rule; however it doesn’t mean he is in full agreement.

“I think it’s important to have Cup racers out there because I think growing up as a young race car driver I learned that you only get better when you’re racing against people that are better than you, and I think this has the ability to give young drivers that and young crew chiefs coming up through the XFINITY Series,” he said. “I think it gives them the ability to work with Cup drivers and things like that, so I think that’s good that they have that mix in there, but at the same time you also want to have the opportunity for young drivers to get into the seat and drive it at some point.”

For drivers, there could be future problems moving forward as some teams had already signed deals for next year before the regulations were released. Busch told USA Today his sponsor NOS Energy Drink had already signed for Busch to run more than the 10 races he will be allowed, so there will need to be renegotiating done.

“What we do with the rest of the money NOS Energy Drink pays us for the rest of the races, we’ve got to work out,” he said. “We already had a deal in place, so now those contracts are null and void and have to change.”

Part of the rule is about allowing the series to create its own identity by having its own breed of stars win races. However, part of forcing series identity is putting the familiar faces in front of the fans, something Elliott Sadler pointed out has been missing lately in post-race interviews.

Whether this is the right move or not has yet to be seen as only time will tell. However, for now, these are the rules everybody will have to play by.

“Obviously, the only thing that matters is what the fans want,” Blake Koch told POPULAR SPEED. “So if the fans are complaining, I applaud NASCAR for trying something to fix it. Obviously, we want to keep the fans happy as we want them to pay money to come watch us race, or watch on TV. So whatever we need to do to give the fans what they want, I’m good with.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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