Moonlighters Go 5-for-5 in 2016 Xfinity Series
OK, it wasn’t Kyle Busch winning his fourth consecutive Xfinity series race last Sunday, but it still was a Sprint Cup regular–Austin Dillon–taking the checkers at Auto Club Speedway. In fact, with Chase Elliott winning the opener at Daytona, and Busch snaring wins at Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, Cup regulars have won 100% of the Xfinity series events this year. And this is not a new phenomenon, since the streak now extends to 10 consecutive wins by Cup drivers, and 23 of last year’s 33 races. 2014 statistics are comparable to last year’s numbers.
As can be expected, statistics like this have once again raised the question of whether or not Cup drivers should be allowed to compete in the Xfinity series, with arguments falling on both sides of the issue. In a previous post on this general subject, we reported that while the “typically better-equipped ‘senior’ drivers deprive the regular nationwide drivers of opportunities to earn wins and higher payouts, … this concern is countered by the observation that competing against higher-level drivers gives the lower-tier drivers a valuable opportunity to learn from those presumably better skilled. Also, the appearance of Cup-level drivers tends to boost attendance at Xfinity races, a factor considered beneficial to the sport in general.”
NASCAR took a partial step toward mitigating the issue beginning with the 2011 season by stipulating that Cup drivers must designate the series in which they intend to compete for championships. Thus, if a driver declares the Sprint Cup series as his championship target, that driver is no longer eligible for the Xfinity title and will not be credited with points in the Xfinity series championship battle. Of course, the Cup drivers can still pocket their portion of the Xfinity purse, and the winner’s piece is usually the largest slice of the pie. In fact, of the five races so far this year, Cup drivers have recorded 14 top 5 finishes compared to 11 among the Xfinity regulars, meaning that on average they tend to walk off with the lion’s share of the winnings.
So, is it a good thing or a bad thing? The argument has been raging for years–decades,actually–dating back to drivers like Mark Martin in the 1990s putting up numbers like Kyle Busch is now recording. And every time there’s a prolonged string of Cup winners, the argument re-surfaces. Perhaps it’s more acute in recent history because of Busch’s complete dominance–in the three races he’s won, he’s been out front on 493 of the 563 laps (88%). If you’re a Kyle Busch fan, then that’s a good thing. If you’re not a Kyle Busch fan, then that’s considered “stinking up the show.”
NASCAR does not appear ready or willing to take a position on the issue, with Chairman Brian France commenting on Sirius Radio that “It’s a fair debate. I can get on either side of it. Right now, that’s the rules of the game, and we’re going to take the benefits of the rules of the game over some of the things that may be drawbacks.’’
What say you?