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NASCAR may further reduce how many Xfinity races Cup drivers can compete

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INDIANAPOLIS — NASCAR has talked with Xfinity teams about further limiting Cup drivers in Xfinity races, series managing director Wayne Auton said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One possibility would be for Cup drivers to be limited to five Xfinity races only regardless of their experience level, which could be a significant cut for some drivers.

Currently, drivers with more than five full-time seasons in Cup are limited to 10 Xfinity races. They also cannot compete in the four Dash 4 Cash races and the final eight races of the season.

Drivers with less than five full-time Cup seasons — Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez for example — are allowed to compete in the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races and all playoff events except the season finale in Miami.

The rule has had a limited impact with the results. Cup drivers have won 13 of 17 Xfinity races this season, heading into Saturday’s event at Indianapolis. Even with fewer Cup drivers in the Dash 4 Cash races, Cup competitors still won three of those four events.

“We have been in talks with teams about even limiting the number of races more or stay where we’re at,” Auton said. “Those conversations are ongoing. Stay tuned. I think some announcements will be coming out here pretty soon on what the garage area has asked us to look at.’’

With the current rules, 14 of the 17 Xfinity races have had at least three Cup drivers finish in the top five. The exceptions were Iowa (standalone race), Daytona (few Cup drivers competed) and Phoenix (a Dash 4 Cash race).

“We want to make sure that we have 40 cars on the racetrack every week and we have 40 competitive cars on the racetrack every week,’’ Auton said. “I’m very proud of the way our Xfinity drivers have held up this year. Have they won as many races as the other series drivers? No, they haven’t, but I’m going to tell you what, you can’t go from a lack of effort. They’re really driving their cars really hard this year to make sure they get that championship at Homestead.’’

Kyle Busch is against the rule and reiterated his disappointment Friday at Indianapolis when asked about how he plans to stop racing in the Xfinity Series after he accumulates 100 wins (he has 89).

“Nothing came into the thought of it,” Busch said. “Joe (Gibbs) and I, we’ve always been joking for the last two or three years they’re going to kick us out and they are. They’re trying year by year and race by race of eliminating myself from competition in the Xfinity Series.’’

Asked what NASCAR does not understand in the debate and why he should be able to race as often as he wants in the Xfinity Series, Busch said: “I don’t think that’s a battle that I’ll ever win, so I’m best off keeping my mouth shut.’’

Kevin Harvick also has issues with further reducing the number of Xfinity races for Cup drivers. He notes such a change could impact teams financially. 

“I think that’s the one thing that a lot of people forget,’’ Harvick said on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show. “They want to take this Xfinity Series and they want to make it into Xfinity drivers only. Well, guess what? If you don’t race against the Cup guys and you don’t have that experience on a weekly basis of learning what those Cup guys are doing to run fast and how this sport works, all that is going to happen is you’re just going to struggle longer when you get to Cup. You’re not going to have all the tendencies of the things that you need just racing against Xfintiy drivers that don’t have all the experience that Cup guys get.

“And oh by the way. Those Xfinity sponsorships? Most of those sponsorships are tied to a Cup guy. If they dropped these races to five races like they’re talking to next year, we’ll have to cut two races. There’s probably a million dollars tied to those two races in sponsoring the race, associates on the Cup car, personal services contracts, so there is a lot of money on the line.

“So when you look at a Ryan Preece gets to run a Joe Gibbs car (as he did at New Hampshire last week, finishing second), he got that opportunity because they want to run that car full-time and obviously they’re getting enough money from the races that Denny Hamlin runs and Erik Jones runs and Kyle Busch runs to charge the top dollar.

“When you have a guy in it — and this is from a team owner standpoint when DeLana and I used to have the teams — when you have that top-dollar guy and you can charge $200,000 a race for sponsorship, you can take a chance on the non-companion races or the races you haven’t sold of selling a guy a race for $100,000 or $125,000. Those are where the opportunities come from.

“I just think we need to be very, very careful about cutting all the Cup ties to the series out of the (Xfinity) Series because there is a lot of sponsorship that really probably won’t show up until you get two, three or four years down the road, when these sponsors say, ‘Well, if I can’t have Kyle (Busch) in the car, I’ll put the money in the Cup car. We’ll just use the Cup car and that will be it because that is what will happen because the price point is becoming increasingly closer as we go through the years from one series to another.’’

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NASCAR America: Parker Kligerman takes to simulator to show Xfinity changes at Indy (video)

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While Saturday will mark the sixth straight year the NASCAR Xfinity Series will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there will be significant changes. 

Among the changes: the use of restrictor plates, as well as adding aero ducts to aid cars with the draft.

On Tbursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway — on the NBCSN iRacing Simulator, that is — to show how some of those changes will impact the cars and potentially the race.

Check it out in the video above.

Xfinity Playoff Grid: Brendan Gaughan on bubble; Darrell Wallace Jr.’s presence lingers

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The Xfinity Series season is 17 races old and yet there’s only three series regulars locked into the playoffs.

Thanks to wins from eight different Cup Series regulars, only William Byron, Ryan Reed and Justin Allgaier have qualified for the postseason based on wins.

That leaves nine spots left to be filled on either race wins or points by the time the regular season ends in nine races.

Entering this weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the drivers on the bubble are Blake Koch and Brendan Gaughan.

Koch, 11th on the grid, is 35 points above the cutoff. Gaughan is 12th and just nine points above the cutoff in a season where the Richard Childress Racing veteran has four DNFs and only two top 10s in the last seven races.

Below is the playoff grid through 17 races.

 

Though he hasn’t competed in the last five Xfinity races, the presence of Darrell Wallace Jr. is still felt in the series’ points standings.

Wallace last made a start for Roush Fenway Racing at Pocono on June 10, finishing the race fourth in points. But since then he has only fallen to 12th in the points standings.

This puts Wallace ahead of Gaughan, Ryan Sieg, JJ Yeley, Ross Chastain, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones and Spencer Gallagher, who have started all 17 races this year.

When this was noted on Twitter, Wallace gave his two cents in GIF form.

 

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Entry lists for Cup, Xfinity races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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While the Camping World Truck Series is at Eldora Speedway this week, the Cup and Xfinity Series make their annual trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cup teams will participate in the 24th annual Brickyard 400 and Xfinity teams will compete in the Lilly Diabetes 250.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup – Brickyard 400

There are 41 cars entered into the race weekend. This would be the eighth time in 20 races that a Cup race has had the maximum of 40 cars start in a race.

JJ Yeley will drive the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Last year Kyle Busch won his second consecutive Brickyard 400 after leading 149 of 170 laps from the pole.

This will be the first Brickyard 400 without Jeff Gordon in the field. Last year he substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovered from a concussion.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Lilly Diabetes 250

There are 40 cars on the preliminary entry list for the race. Casey Mears was set to drive the No. 98 but he has been withdrawn from the event.

Five Cup regulars are entered: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ty Dillon, Paul Menard and Erik Jones.

Last year Busch led all but one lap in the 63-lap main event, winning from the pole and capping off a stretch of three wins in a row.

Click here for the entry list

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Kyle Busch will be done with Xfinity Series racing (sort of) once he reaches 100 wins

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After winning his 89th race in the Xfinity Series – improving a series record – Kyle Busch said he has a plan for ending his time and domination in the series.

It’ll take just 11 more trips to victory lane.

Busch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he will cease Xfinity competition (while allowing for some exceptions) if he reaches 100 wins in the series, which he has competed in since 2003.

“Retirement is fast approaching, I’m looking forward to that,” Busch said after winning the Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “When I get 100 Xfinity Series wins I’m done with Xfinity.”

Busch has made 334 starts in the Xfinity Series. Since going winless in 22 starts in 2012, Busch has won six or more races in the last four seasons, with a high of 12 in 2013. He won six in 2015 when he missed more than three months while recovering from leg injuries sustained in the February Xfinity race at Daytona.

Mark Martin is second in Xfinity wins with 49.

Busch’s opportunities to race in Xfinity Series were limited by NASCAR beginning this year. It imposed a cap of 10 races for on Cup regulars with five or more years of full-time experience.

“I’ll have four more (Xfinity starts) this year and whatever the rule is next year,” said Busch, adding that the cap might permit fewer races in 2018.

The 2015 Cup champion said once he reaches his goal he would return to Xfinity to help out Joe Gibbs Racing if the need arises.

“I might do it on occasion for Joe if he asks it as a favor because he wants to assess where his team is at,” Busch said. “Other than that, I’m done.”