While NASCAR has yet to make a public word about their new rule declaring drivers to choose a series to compete in for points it’s only a matter of days. The new rule states that drivers may run for points in one series during 2011.
The rule change has good intentions, after all when is the last time you saw Tom Brady throw a touchdown in the Area League or when was the last time Albert Pujols claimed a Southern League MVP award?
This however is NASCAR and nothing in NASCAR is like any other sport. Everyone races in their playoffs even if they have no chance of winning, the point system for their playoffs credits a team for being better one or two weeks then extremely consistent all year, and for lack of saying it another way the rules are written in pencil so they can be changed during the season.
Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski have already made it clear that they plan on racing the full Nationwide schedule and you can count on Kyle Busch being around for a good number of events too. Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin are good bets to run as many has half the races as well. No one is complaining about this. Often the Nationwide race is held at the same venue as the Sprint Cup event and track promoters obviously want marquee names to help fill the seats.
The problem is that last year the highest finishing driver who wasn’t a Cup regular finished fourth in the points. Justin Allgaier finished 960 points out of first place, even more humbling is that he was bested by Kyle Busch by 255 points despite appearing in 6 more events. Only four true Nationwide drivers finished in the top-10 with Trevor Bayne (7th), Jason Leffler (9th) and Steven Wallace (10th) making the grade.
Perhaps even more disturbing is that the four combined for 1 win and 21 top-5’s. Of the six Cup regulars to also appear in the top-10 only one failed to win a race. Two Cup regulars had more top-5’s on their own then the four combined.
Justin Allgaier was the best Nationwide only driver last season but he notched just 1 win, 8 top-5’s and 20 top-10’s in 35 events. He beat out only Paul Menard in each of those categories among the Cup regulars who appeared in the top-10 in points.
Now I’ll agree that it isn’t easy to win a race in any of NASCAR’s three series and that 20 top-10’s is a pretty good number when you are racing against 6-8 Cup regulars on any given day but to have just 8 finishes of fifth or better and possibly be crowned a champion leaves a odd taste in my mouth.
It’s almost inevitable that Edwards and/or Keselowski will beat out all Nationwide drivers in points earned this year. It’s almost as safe a bet that Kyle Busch will as well. But because of this rule change the fourth or maybe even fifth highest point earning driver will be crowned series champion at seasons end. It would be as if baseball said the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies were forbidden from winning the World Series this year yet were allowed to play their games. It’s an odd one.
A rule limiting the number of events a Cup regular could appear in may have been a better alternative to keep their point totals down but the reality is no one was willing to take the hit in the pocket that could cause at gate revenues.