NASCAR limits number of lower tier races for veterans
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Kyle Busch has been to victory lane 15 times this season. Only four of the trips were in his Sprint Cup car.
Those other 11 wins came in NASCAR's two lower-tier national series, much to the chagrin of die-hard race fans who believe the Xfinity and Truck Series should be for newcomers and development drivers.
On Wednesday, NASCAR announced a limit beginning next season for how many times veteran Cup drivers can moonlight at the lower level. A Cup driver with more than five years full-time experience will be restricted to 10 races in the Xfinity Series and seven races in the Truck Series.
Veterans will also be prohibited from competing in the regular-season finale and all Chase races. And in the Xfinity Series, veterans will not be allowed to race in the four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash bonus events.
"The updated guidelines will elevate the stature of our future stars, while also providing them the opportunity to compete against the best in professional motorsports," NASCAR senior vice president Jim Cassidy said. "These updated guidelines are the result of a collaborative effort involving the entire industry, and will ultimately better showcase the emerging stars of NASCAR."
Busch for years has dominated the Xfinity and Truck Series via participation either with Joe Gibbs Racing or his own Kyle Busch Motorsports. Most owners use Cup stars in some capacity to sell sponsorships that help support their teams. Team Penske often uses Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano in Xfinity races to help develop personnel. JR Motorsports has fielded a star car as a way to bring in enough revenue to complement its full-time Xfinity team.
But fans have grown weary of Cup drivers dominating. Cup drivers have won 18 of 30 Xfinity Series races this year, and three of 19 Truck races.
Many younger drivers took to Twitter to comment on the new rule, including Chase Elliott, a rookie in the Cup Series and former Xfinity Series champion.
"I enjoyed the opportunity to race those guys as often as I could," he wrote . "You'd race 'em anyway at some point if you move on. Makes you better."
The first task for Joe Gibbs Racing was to get all four of its cars into the third round of NASCAR's playoffs.
Now the real job becomes a balance on maintaining harmony in the Toyota camp as all four drivers compete for a slot in NASCAR's championship-deciding race. Four drivers will race for the title next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and odds are highly against JGR getting all four slots.
Reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth claimed four of the eight spots in the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The final four will be decided at the next three races, at Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. Gibbs believes this round is more about winning and less dependent on strategy and teamwork.
"Everybody's geared up. You're going to have to try and win a race," the team owner said. "Everybody is going to be going for a win and that's what you're going to see from here on out."
Three of the Gibbs drivers laid back last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway and simply turned laps in a successful effort to coast into the next round. Only Hamlin had to actually race, and he squeezed through on a tiebreaker.
Hamlin preferred racing with everything on the line, and Gibbs believes his drivers would prefer to go for broke rather than race for points.
"I think really guys would rather be in the situation where they feel like they've got to go win," Gibbs said. "I think the drivers kind of all feel that way."
It's been yearlong celebration at Team Penske of Roger Penske's 50th season in auto racing. This banner year has already been highlighted by an IndyCar Series title, and the organization has a chance to make it a clean sweep.
Joey Logano won at Talladega Superspeedway to advance into the third round of NASCAR's playoffs, giving Penske a shot at a second Cup title.
A blown engine for Brad Keselowski at Talladega left Penske with only Logano still in the hunt.
"The good news is you don't have four people that you're trying to work with going into the Chase," Penske said. "We can put all our efforts on one car, Joey. Of course, Brad is one of the biggest supporters on the team for Joey. I think that will pay dividends for us."