The Cup Vs. Xfinity Debate: Still in the Air
It hasn’t surfaced too often in recent months, but it’s still there…the continuously-evolving debate about NASCAR Cup drivers making appearances in the lower-tier Xfinity racing series. It remains an issue among Xfinity purists–those who firmly believe that there needs to be a separation between the highest and next-to-highest levels of the sport–and those who buy in to the philosophy that there are benefits to mixing of the two levels, and so far in 2017 the debate has been flamed by another round of dominance in the Xfinity winner’s circle by Cup drivers. Nearly three-quarters, just to put it in perspective.
The current rules set limits on how many Xfinity events full-time Cup drivers can enter–10–and commentary in the airwaves indicates that thought is being given to cutting this in half. Despite the current limitation, Cup drivers have won 13 of the 18 Xfinity events this year (72%), after capturing 21 of 2016’s 33 races (64%). The number of Cup winners has remained pretty stable (nine in 2016, eight this year), although the mix has changed. Last year, Kyle Busch bagged 10 wins, compared to three this year. The dynamics of the current season are likely what’s creating continued concern, since there have been only three non-Cup winners: William Byron (3 wins), Ryan Reed (1), and Justin Allgaier (1).
So, where’s it all headed? Well, the website alt_Driver reports that Xfinity series director Wayne Auton is leaning toward the reduction in allowable entries, with an announcement expected in the next few weeks. “NASCAR officials believe lowering the limit from 10 (see our previous post) to five will drastically help the Xfinity Series drivers improve and have a better chance to win,” the article explains. If this comes to pass, it will be the third major rule change aimed at leveling the playing field for Xfinity series drivers, following the change several years ago that prohibited Cup drivers from competing for championships at both levels (see our previous post).
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. NASCAR does not appear ready or willing to take an absolute position on the issue, instead tweaking the rules from time-to-time to impose limitations on Cup drivers entering Xfinity events. Chairman Brian France, commenting on Sirius Radio, has taken the position 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.’’
Good Thing or Bad Thing?
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.”
So, if you’re a NASCAR fan and you attend an Xfinity event, do you want to see a Cup driver in the winner’s circle, or would you rather see one of the up-and-coming Xfinity drivers take the laurels? Let us know what you think.
The Top 10 Xfinity Winners
Just as a quick frame of reference, here are the top 10 all time Xfinity winners dating back to Day One:
- Kyle Busch (89 wins)*
- Mark martin (49)
- Kevin Harvick (46)*
- Carl Edwards (38)
- Brad Keselowski (35)*
- Jack Ingram (31)
- Matt Kenseth (29)*
- Joey Lagano (28)*
- Jeff Burton (27)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (24)*, Tommy Houston (24)
(* – Currently active)
The next highest Xfinity regular on the list is Elliott Sadler with 13 wins. Now, to be totally fair, it should be pointed out that some of those drivers in the top 10 all-time earned some of their wins when they were Xfinity regulars.