by Ryan Isley
When Kyle Busch took the checkered flag at Kentucky Speedway on Friday night for his fifth win of the season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, I didn’t see it. Why? Because I turned the race off with 50 laps to go knowing what the outcome would ultimately be.
It was yet another race in which two or more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars chased each other around the track with no hope of a driver competing for the Xfinity Series championship having a chance at winning. And it was another race where Busch wasn’t going to be beaten. The class of the field was easily Busch and Austin Dillon, who just never could run down the No. 18 of Busch during the evening.
Watching Busch dominate yet another race in the Xfinity Series takes away some of the fun of watching the races. He has now led 1108 of the 1492 laps he has run in the Series this season (74.2%) and has five wins with three 2nd place finishes in nine races. The other race? Oh, he finished a disappointing 4th. In those five wins, he has led 828 of 964 laps, or 85.9%. That includes leading 199 of the 200 laps in Atlanta in the second race of the season.
It is disappointing because there was actually some pretty good racing and strategy taking place throughout the night due to the repave at Kentucky. Teams and drivers had to figure out tire wear and see which lanes on the track would allow for the most grip and the best chance to race without getting loose. What was happening on pit road was at times just as interesting as what was happening on the track, with teams and Goodyear officials looking at each set of tires that came off the cars and trying to decide what adjustments could be made to eliminate the blistering that was taking place.
But then when the focus was no longer on pit road and back out on the racing surface, there was the No. 18 of Busch just ticking off lap after lap after lap in the lead. He led 185 of the 201 laps and only gave up the lead when he needed to take his car to pit road. Once his pit stops were over and stops cycled through, Busch had little to no trouble getting back to the front.
And that’s why I just couldn’t watch anymore. It was the 8th time in 12 Xfinity Series races this season in which the victor was a Sprint Cup Series regular. This follows a 2015 season that saw Sprint Cup Series drivers head to victory lane 23 times in 33 races.
NASCAR needs to do something about the amount of races that Sprint Cup Series drivers are running in the Xfinity Series. After 16 races in the Xfinity Series season, there are eight drivers who are competing for the Sprint Cup Series championship that have run in at least six Xfinity races.
That list includes two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions (Busch and Brad Keselowski), a Daytona 500 champion (Joey Logano), a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year (Kyle Larson), this season’s Rookie of the Year leader (Chase Elliott) and five drivers who have made The Chase for the Sprint Cup at least once in the past two seasons (Busch, Keselowski, Logano, Dillon and Aric Almirola). The other driver is Matt DiBenedetto, who is probably the only one of the eight who should be running in these races.
While some will argue that letting these drivers compete in Xfinity Series races won’t alter the championship because all three of NASCAR’s top series have implemented a Chase for this season, that just isn’t accurate. While these are just “regular season” races, a driver in the Xfinity Series would clinch a spot in the Xfinity Series Chase with a win. Through 16 races, only three drivers have done so – Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez. Compare that to the Sprint Cup Series, where 11 drivers have claimed a win in 17 races.
LeBron James doesn’t go play for the Canton Charge for a few games a season, Bryce Harper doesn’t join the Harrisburg Senators for a series or two during the season when healthy, Jason Day doesn’t go play on the Web.com Tour for a weekend and Tom Brady doesn’t go back to play for the University of Michigan each season for a couple of games. So why does NASCAR continually allow their stars to drop down to their lower level series and take away opportunities from other drivers?
If NASCAR wants to allow these drivers to keep running in multiple series, they at least need to set some sort of limits. Instead of allowing drivers to run unlimited races in each series, each Sprint Cup Series driver should be given a maximum of 10 races they can race in lower series, with no more than five of those races coming in one series. That way, they can run five in the Xfinity Series and five in the Camping World Truck Series.
Until then, I am afraid I will be turning off a lot more NASCAR Xfinity Series races before they are even officially over. And I won’t be the only one.