Mark Martin: New Xfinity/Truck eligibility rules ‘double-edged sword’

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The new restriction on Sprint Cup veterans competing in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series could be called “The Kyle Busch Rule.”

The rule limits current Cup drivers with five full-time seasons of experience to 10 races annually in Xfinity and seven in the Truck series. It also bans them from competing in the final eight races of the year, which includes the Chase and the regular-season finale.

If NASCAR had introduced similar guidelines just more than 10 years ago, they might have been labeled “The Mark Martin Rule.”

Before Busch came along and won a series-record 85 races in 12 seasons, it was Martin who claimed the mark with 49 wins from 1987-2011.

Martin’s true dominance came in the 1990s when the former Roush Fenway Racing was splitting time between what was then the Winston Cup and Busch Series.

From 1993-2000, Martin won 38 times, winning fewer than three races in a year just once in that stretch. The most came in 1993 with seven wins.

Martin was asked by Dave Moody on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio how he viewed the rule’s announcement. Martin said people need to remember that “times change” in life and sports.

“For many, any kind of change they don’t like,” Martin said. “I don’t like change a lot. But we need to make changes as times go on, and circumstances are different. I think it’s OK.

‘In some ways it’s a double-edged sword. There’s gains and there’s losses in making changes and getting Cup guys out of that series. I want to make sure that we keep our series interesting to our fans and interesting to our sponsors so the Xfinity Series doesn’t dry up. We need to keep that thing alive and thriving for all the young guys that need to get that chance to have that experience. We need them to be able to measure themselves against Cup guys. I think it’s OK on one hand. On the other, there’s still going to be an awful lot of Cup guys in the series.”

While drivers such as Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and others still will compete in the Xfinity Series, it will be more in line with the number of starts Martin was making at the peak of his Xfinity success.

After one full-time season in 1987 with three wins in 27 starts, Martin started more than 15 races only once (17 in 1989). This was when the Xfinity schedule was a few races shorter than in it is in 2016.

In Busch’s 14 years of racing in the Xfinity Series, he has started fewer than 15 races only once since his first full-time effort in 2004. He’s earned 10 or more wins three times and he has nine this season with three races left.

“No one really has a problem with Cup drivers racing in the Xfinity Series,” Martin said. “Unless they win too much. Then they shouldn’t be able to race. I don’t completely disagree. I’m not all that interested in watching Kyle Busch demolish the field in every race. I’m just not. But I am interested in Erik Jones giving him a run for his money, or something else like that.”

Martin reflected on his time in the Xfinity Series, when he drove the iconic No. 60 Winn-Dixie Ford. How would a cap on Cup drivers in the lower series have impacted his career? Martin believes he likely wouldn’t be entering the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.

“It would be tough on me because in the early ’90s I think I may have gotten fired from Roush Racing at times for not performing,” Martin admitted. “I’ve said all along the success I had in the Busch Series in the ’90s kept me relevant in the Cup Series when I would go through droughts.

“It would also keep me relevant about car knowledge because I had to battle people that didn’t think I knew what I was talking about setups and bodies and all these kinds of things on the hardware on these cars. I could go over to my Busch car where I had 100 percent say in everything about how the body was put on, how the body was built and every setup and shock that went under that car, and I could go win with that.

“When I could do that, that added credibility to me. And my career, would not have been, I don’t believe, would have been a Hall of Fame career had I not had that to fall back on. Early in the years at Roush Racing, we had some really great years, and we had some years where we weren’t great. If I hadn’t of had the success that I had in that series from a hardware standpoint and a driver standpoint, it would have made it tough to make things go. For me, it was critical at the time. Today’s age, things are quite a bit different.”

Martin will enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame with 40 Sprint Cup wins. The most he ever claimed in one season was seven in 1998. That year in the Xfinity Series, Martin won two races in 15 starts, his fewest in an eight-year stretch.

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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