Time to Save Xfinity ~ SUVs to the Rescue
You know, when I first made this suggestion, it was only a bit more than half seriously. That’s changed, and now it’s an all-out Call for Action:
NASCAR, it’s time to start the switch of the Xfinity Series to a lower-cost division for SUVs. If you don’t want this key component of the world of racing to disappear, you’ve got to do this NOW!
We’ve read the stories: Roush is out; Ganassi is out; the number of cars in an Xfinity race is being cut because we don’t want more start-and-parks than for-real racers. This series is DYING, and I certainly don’t see any rescue plan coming out of Daytona. Maybe it’s time to consider mine.
Empty stands even plague Cup races like this, but it’s even worse for Xfinity events, so we need a fix.
Let’s face it – Xfinity has no real draw anymore. NASCAR would like us to believe it’s a series for up-and-coming drivers, but in reality, the so-called “up-and-comers” are mostly just those who can bring sponsor dollars to the table. Aside from a couple of veterans and the scattered appearances of Cup regulars, the rest of the field is filled by no-money/no-chance cars, whether they intend to run the whole race or just the first 15 laps (do I feel a vibration in this car somewhere?).
Back when the series had racers who stuck around and built at least some following (remember Jason Keller?), the Cup regulars tended to bolster attendance, but now it’s more like extended practice for them, and how much are you willing to pay to see that?
Here’s the alternative: Create a new SUV series and make the racing vehicles really cheap, along the lines of PASS/CARS/SCSCS late models, so you get a lot of locals trying their hand at this more-or-less “big time” division. Add the driver development kids if you want. Keep the whole thing at a level where it’s OK to do it part-time (continuing either the other components of your racing career or your roofing business) and be competitive, or to try for the championship without needing an S&P 500 company footing the fills. We need to create a place where Hillside Building Supply or Roadrage Trucking can support a team, and where Uncle Bob or your boss down at the body shop can spring for you to run half a dozen events.
Before NASCAR let costs spiral out of control and actively discouraged part-time efforts in its touring series, guys like Ray Hendrick and Sonny Hutchins regularly raced and did well in those divisions – Hutchins even put Emmanuel Zervakis’ #01 on the outside pole and led a Cup race at Martinsville.
The low-cost cars would accomplish two other things. First, they would enable a quick change in the series, since not everybody would need a million bucks to jump in. Second – and even more important, it would enable NASCAR to move back to a low-cost series without having to offer the current kind of purse structure. (yeah, I know, we don’t talk about purses, anymore, but teams still DO get paid) That would give the division time to grow and attract a fan base.
I’d even go so far as to suggest that the current Xfinity cars be given a couple of years to race as Cup entrants, with appropriate leveling of rules.
When NASCAR’s Grand American Series was dying, and Grand National/Cup races weren’t drawing full fields, NASCAR allowed the smaller GA cars to race on short tracks with the headline division. A similar plan could provide a graceful exit for current-rules Xfinity cars.
Who knows, this might even be what gives other manufacturers a convenient point of entry. It would be much lower cost than Cup, and it would involve models they are working really hard to sell. Are you ready for those Subarus and Nissans to hit the track?
I remember when the Xfinity races at Richmond (Busch Series back then) would draw up to 70,000 fans on Friday nights, but those numbers seem to have dropped by about two-thirds, which isn’t a viable situation. Something’s gotta be done, and this just might work.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
If you’d like some non-NASCAR pavement racing events to add to your “must-see” schedule for 2019, you might consider the following:
Bristol Motor Speedway will bring back its Short Track Nationals May 30-June 1. This is one of the most ambitious of the non-NASCAR events held at a Cup track. The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway on October 5. Although not quite up there with the old Cardinal/Dogwood 500s of old (250 laps each for modifieds and late models), this is a great race and has proven successful for Martinsville.
The PASS sanctioning body shows the Commonwealth Clash, postponed due to a threatening weather forecast last October, returning the last weekend in March to Richmond Raceway, but there’s nothing on the track’s website about the event, so I guess you just need to stay tuned there.
Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway will have a major super late model event, co-sponsored by three sanctioning bodies, on May 4. That might just bring back the excitement of major spring events at Nashville in days of old.
The late-in-the-season date concerns me, but this event got my attention, nevertheless: On November 16, the CARS Tour late model stock cars will run a non-points at Dominion Raceway on the Thornburg, VA track’s 2-mile road course. Road races for the smaller sanctioning bodies are really rare, and I’d really like to see this one.
Here’s Dominion Raceway and the road course that the CARS Late Model Stock Car Series is scheduled to race on this November.
Of course, you have the NASCAR schedules and surely have been making arrangements for races you’d like to attend there, but wherever you’re planning to go, mark your schedules now, because January’s ever the time for the optimist, and this one says we’re going to have an incredible racing season in 2019.