NASCAR has addressed many issues in the past few years:
• Improved safety
• Created an exciting post-season
• Removed a number of Larry the Cable Guy type Southern accents
But while I’m not much more than a casual fan of the sport, there’s still one facet of the game that always bothers me when I see it in the sports agate page or the weekend SportsCenter:
• Nextel drivers racing in the Busch series
The Busch circuit (think Triple-A baseball) often follows the Nextel series around from track to track and has their race the previous day. One reason the big boys drive in the little circuit is to get valuable track time in a race setting at little cost. Known as “Buschwhackers,” they also hope to give the young boys some driving experience against the sport’s top drivers and kill two birds with one windshield.
Not a bad idea, but here’s the catch: They’re doing it all the freakin’ time.
Just look at the current Busch points standings:
1. Kevin Harvick, 1284
2. Denny Hamlin, 1128
3. Clint Bowyer, 1075
4. J.J. Yeley, 1028
5. Carl Edwards, 963
6. Paul Menard, 962
You have to go all the way down to Paul Menard to find the first driver who doesn’t race in the Nextel Cup full time.
It’s an obviously bad parallel, but imagine Manny Ramirez suiting up for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox just to get “playing experience,” only to have him bat in the 9th inning in a close game facing the Columbus Clippers’ Mariano Rivera.
The everyday minor leaguers get “watching experience.” That’s what the Busch drivers do: watch a Buschwhacker take the checkered flag. “Yay, I’m getting experience,” Paul Menard might say, half a lap down.
Mental note to Kyle Busch: Your last name does not dictate the series in which you participate.
Don’t get me wrong: I understand the motives for racing in the Busch race the day before the Nextel gig. So why was it that the April 15 Busch race, the Pepsi 300 — on a weekend where Nextel had the week off — had a Top Five chock full of Nextel regulars as well as seven of the top ten? Nashville isn’t a Nextel track.
NASCAR should limit the number of times a Nextel guy can race in the Busch circuit. Granted, a Nextel racer never actually wins the series because they don’t race enough to qualify for the championship, but they are sucking up all the money and points that regular Busch wheelers would love to acquire.
Maybe the top-level drivers should be capped to three or four Busch races a year. That way the newbs get the experience against seasoned speedsters and more of the victories land in the hands of — now, follow me on this one — Busch drivers.