Didier Drogba decides to play in a rec league
May 11, 2011 11:54 AM   Subscribe

[NASCARfilter]A question my 8-year-old son posed to me. In two of the divisions of NASCAR, Sprint Cup series and Nationwide series, drivers regularly race in both races. It is our understanding that the Nationwide series is a lower tier series, kind of like AAA minor-league baseball. Why do the "big names" of Sprint Cup race in the Nationwide races (besides experiencing the track itself in real race conditions)?

I would compare this to Reggie Jackson suddenly deciding to insert himself in the lineup of a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game. Or me participating in a dodgeball game during my son's P.E. class. Why are they allowed to race in these lower tier races?
posted by kuanes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The primary benefit to the driver is, as you pointed out, extra track time before the big race. The main (arguable) benefit the Nationwide series is that the big name drivers draw more attention and viewers to a lower tier event. This has the side-effect of pushing other Nationwide drivers out of the circuit as sponsorship slots are taken up by the stars. See Buschwhacker.
posted by BeerFilter at 12:03 PM on May 11, 2011

Best answer: To put butts in the seats.
NASCAR fans are pathologically loyal to "their driver", and many will go to any race they're in. Knowing this, Cup drivers regularly drive in Nationwide races in order to goose the gate for the track. There's a long-standing animosity toward this among the regular Nationwide drivers.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:42 PM on May 11, 2011

What BeerFilter said, plus they're at the track anyway (most drivers stay in fancy tour buses in the infield), it's extra income, plus these guys just really like to race.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2011

Another reason you see this is that sometimes the driver is the owner of his Nationwide team, whereas very often their Sprint Cup team is owned by another individual/entity. Drivers have started to figure put that the BIG payday is in owning a Sprint Cup team. Consequently, it is becoming more common to see the more successful Sprint Cup drivers get a feel for "running" team on the Nationwide circuit, where operating costs are lower and the barrier to entry for new owners is significantly lower.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:21 PM on May 11, 2011

Best answer: The short answer to the first question is money/they enjoy it/track time, and the short answer to the second question is money. The long answer to both is also money.

The Camping World Truck series now is equivalent to the Nationwide series of 6-8 years ago. There were drivers working their way up to Cup, drivers who made it to Cup but couldn't stay there, drivers who were happy where they were with no intention of moving up, and a few Cup regulars at some of the companion races. The Cup guys would win some races, but the non-Cup drivers would beat the regulars in other races [and get experience racing against Cup drivers], would have stand alone events to themselves, and were the ones battling for the championship. Most seemed to be happy with this setup [some didn't like having the Cup guys there, while others enjoyed the opportunity to beat Cup guys].

The Cup teams were also getting more money in sponsorship than ever before as Cup experienced rising popularity. One of the things Cup owners used the money on was starting/improving their Busch series [now Nationwide series] teams, because the cars were very similar and the extra track time in companion races was huge. The Busch series cars had their own sponsors, but for a lot less money, and owners with both Cup and Busch teams could share equipment/knowledge between them, so Busch only teams started having a really hard time competing.

At the same time, the number of weekends where both series run at the same track increased [better attendance #s which is more $], so it becomes feasible for Cup drivers to run for both championships. And then Busch Series sponsors started demanding Cup drivers [more marketing bang for the $], so even if the owner with Cup and Busch teams would rather have run a developmental driver, they could only get a sponsor for their Busch team with a Cup driver.

I suspect NASCAR thought this problem would go away with the Cup switching to the CoT back in 07/08 [track time became less helpful, but not useless], but too much had already happened - the sponsors were demanding the cup drivers, the veterans who couldn't/didn't want to be in Cup had moved to the Truck series, the drivers who Buschwhacked enjoyed it and getting some value out of the track time, so not much changed.

Of course NASCAR could just ban Cup drivers from the Nationwide series, but that would hurt TV ratings (also attendance, but TV ratings are the big one) - compare the fact it's actually televised on major TV stations to the 2nd tier of other sports. Plus, it might completely kill the series - with the rising costs there are already Nationwide races that don't or barely get 43 entries even with Cup drivers and field fillers. They did the championship point change this year, but it's going to take another year to see what effect that will have [since sponsorship/contracts were in place before they announced the change at the end of last year], but I doubt that'll fix it either.

At this point, the Truck series is more like AAA Baseball, while Nationwide is its own unique monster.
posted by radicarian at 3:32 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, all...

According to my son, "it's just not right!"

I appreciate that it increases the gate, but it seems antithetical to the race.
posted by kuanes at 3:32 PM on May 11, 2011

In case it isn't clear above --- the change this year is that drivers had to "declare" which series they would run for the championship -- that is, they can only accumulate points toward the Sprint Cup championship or the Nationwide Series championship -- not both. This should open the Nationwide series up to more Nationwide-only drivers, since the big names will race for the Sprint Cup championship.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:22 PM on May 11, 2011

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