The debate about the number of Xfinity races Cup drivers can compete continued this week on NASCAR America with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett weighing in.
Both feel that the limitations currently in place are probably sufficient, but still recognize that some changes can be made to improve the competition and give Xfinity drivers a better path to the big leagues.
For Jarrett, the competitive landscape would be improved if Cup drivers fielded their own equipment instead of running for the super teams.
“I think that the balance we have right now is pretty decent,” Jarrett said. “The thing that I have said over the years is I think there are advantages and a lot of the young drivers will tell you there are things to learn. But if those Cup guys are in Cup equipment basically from Cup owners, then that’s a huge advantage. You’re not seeing much of them, so you’re not learning a whole lot from them because the racing is not as close.”
Jarrett’s experience running against the Cup guys when he was trying to graduate from the support series was valuable, but mostly because the Cup drivers were fielding their own equipment. Without the big sponsorship dollars available to their Cup owners, the equipment was more equal to that which was available to Jarrett – and the level playing field allowed him to assess his strength.
The prevalence of Cup drivers in the Xfinity series is a double-edged sword, according to Earnhardt. While necessary to attract fans and sponsorship dollars to the marquee teams, it places a limitation on the Xfinity regulars – and that also affects the bottom line.
Earnhardt’s solution would be for NASCAR to have invitation races that attract Cup drivers.
“I would love for them to have invitation races for Cup guys – to make those events big time events that you could sell to sponsors.”
Ultimately, it is the health of sponsorships that make or break Xfinity teams.
“As an owner, I know when the Cup guys are there that it’s going to be a little more difficult for us to battle for those wins,” Earnhardt said. “So that’s difficult as an owner. It also affects how our partners view that race.
“To be frank, when the Cup guys are there, they are the best drivers in the world and they’re in great cars. … More than likely, we’re going to be battling for second through fifth when Kyle (Busch) is in a race; we know that. And our sponsors are recognizing that. It’s a little difficult.”
Still, Earnhardt knows Cup drivers impact the bottom line.
“I’m gonna run a race this year, at Richmond, that allows one of our other cars to have additional sponsorship.” Earnhardt said. “That’s the reason I’ll run that race. So I get that side of it too.”
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