NASCAR announced new participation guidelines for its three national series Wednesday, limiting the amount of NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races that full-time drivers in its premier series will be allowed to compete in, starting in 2017.
Beginning next year, the rules parameters will limit Cup Series drivers with more than five years’ full-time experience to a maximum of 10 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and seven (7) events in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
The new guidelines will also prohibit premier series drivers at that experience level from participating in those two series’ final eight events of the year — a span that includes the regular-season finale and the seven-race Chase playoffs for both circuits. In the case of the XFINITY Series, full-time Cup Series competitors will also be restricted from the four races in the Dash 4 Cash program.
The guidelines don’t apply to drivers with fewer than five years of full-time premier series experience, which includes, among others, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott.
There are 33 XFINITY Series races next year. Not participating in the regular-season finale, the seven-race playoff or any of the four yet-to-be-announced Dash 4 Cash races means those impacted can race in 10 of the remaining 21 events, four of which are stand-alone races. In the Camping World Truck Series, 23 races are scheduled for next year. Not competing in the seven Chase races gives impacted drivers 16 races in which they can compete, five of them being stand-alones.
Rumblings about the concept were stoked last week by NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell, who acknowledged that the sanctioning body was considering the rules updates in an Oct. 17 appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Jim Cassidy — NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Operations — told NASCAR.com that the potential for a rules update affecting driver participation was “certainly not a new discussion.”
Cassidy points out that the three national series already have a certain level of differentiation in the type of vehicles used; now, he says, the opportunity exists to make the identity of each series and its competitors more distinct.
“You see the number of drivers coming up through and the desire and the calling of the fan base to say, ‘we’re interested in who’s coming up through the system, we want to hear the stories, we want to understand who these drivers are,’ so that they can begin to formulate and build their future roster of drivers that they root for,” Cassidy said. “All three of the national series provide really an unprecedented level of competition; it’s on us to make sure that we find the right balance, as the league, to say that there is some level of participation by Cup drivers in Truck and XFINITY and what that balance is.”
Both series will end with a four-driver shootout for the title next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where full-time Cup-level drivers who qualified for the 2015 Chase — regardless of experience level — will be barred from the championship finales this year.
It’s not the first such limitation on premier series drivers moonlighting in the other national tours’ competition. Before the 2011 season, NASCAR mandated that drivers select one of the three series in which to collect championship points. That rules change concluded a five-year reign of Cup Series drivers clinching the title as full-time double-dippers in what is now the XFINITY Series.
But the 2017 guidelines also make allowances for drivers with more than five years’ experience at the Cup level who elect to compete for championship points in the XFINITY or Camping World Truck Series. Based on this year’s competition roster, drivers who meet those exceptions are Elliott Sadler, J.J. Yeley, Jeff Green, Morgan Shepherd and Derrike Cope in XFINITY, and Travis Kvapil in trucks.
Wednesday’s move — the culmination of what Cassidy termed “a whole mountain of conversation with the industry” — still allows for extracurricular participation from top-division drivers, but is designed to provide a wider spotlight for the other two national series’ budding stars.
The restrictions for five-year veterans will apply to every XFINITY and Truck Series Chase event — and the cut-off regular-season finale — next year, potentially widening the door for those series’ regulars to visit Victory Lane under the rigors of postseason pressure.
“Those events are events that we felt would be obvious to say we want to make sure that we have a better chance of focusing on those drivers running for the championship,” Cassidy said. “The ability to win and advance is a significant story line and an opportunity.”
This proclamation from NASCAR is just what is needed for both the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series in order to shine the spotlight on, and allow, the new young talent to rise to the top by showing off their talents to their prospective new car owners and to the race fans, who show up at the race tracks week in and week out.
WOMR loudly applauds this bold move by NASCAR!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!