Podcast: Impact of limiting Cup drivers on smaller Xfinity teams

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Wednesday’s NASCAR America saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett discuss whether further limits should be imposed on Cup drivers competing in the Xfinity Series.

The conversation carried over to the latest NASCAR America Debrief podcast, with Earnhardt further examining the issue.

Earnhardt, who owns JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, said the issue will eventually “funnel all the way down to the fan’s opinion” of what they want to watch.

But Earnhardt expressed a desire to know what mid-pack teams, those unaffiliated to a Cup organization like JD Motorsports and Jeremy Clements Racing, feel about Cup drivers in the series.

“I haven’t heard a good, solid idea of where those teams are, the teams that are vested in that series … What do they think about the Cup drivers coming in there and knowing that knocks them down a few pegs?” Earnhardt said. “What do they think about the Cup drivers coming in there and knowing that knocks them down a few pegs? What does that matter to them as far as their bottom dollar over the course of a season and does it help them that they’re or not? To hear their opinion doesn’t really change the whole argument because it’s always going to come down to what the fan thinks. I think it would help to understand if it’s hurting. If it’s not hurting them, that’s good to know. But if it does hurt them, if it does make it more challenging for them financially, then that’s also important information to know.”

Earnhardt returned to the idea he visited on NASCAR America about changing the narrative from “limiting” Cup drivers to “inviting” them to compete in big race, like Daytona, Charlotte, Darlington and Indianapolis.

“That way the fans know what they’re getting,” Earnhardt said. “‘Man, when I go to this race there’ll be Cup guys there. When I go to this race, there won’t be any Cup guys there.’ It’s cut and dry.”

Earnhardt added: “I don’t like saying, ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You’re not allowed’ is never going to win, is never going to be a good look for anybody. To turn it around maybe and make it more of an invitational kind of thing. … I think that’s a better direction to appease everyone.”

The discussion then moved to whether the Xfinity Series should return to smaller tracks, like Lucas Oil Raceway, the short track in Indianapolis the Xfinity Series raced at before moving to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2012.

Earnhardt would “love” to take his four cars to compete at the short track, but it would be a “step backwards” for his company’s business plan.

“When we go to the big track at Indy … we’re going to get a bigger number in our partnership with our sponsors than if we raced at (Lucas Oil Raceway),” Earnhardt said. “Because Indy’s a big track and we’re racing with the Cup teams, it’s bigger exposure because of the history of the track. It’s harder to sell this race to a sponsor at (Raceway Park). Even though I think the majority of everyone that you might poll might say they’d rather watch that race! It’s strange because it’s a bit of (between) a rock and a hard place. I would love to take my cars and race at (Raceway Park). As an owner, I’d love to go over there and race there instead than the big Indy track.

“But I know for our business and our business model it’s better for us to be at the big track.”

Earnhardt does believe smaller teams like JD Motorsports could “survive a change” like a move back to smaller tracks.

“It would be more difficult for the bigger teams who are budgeted at a bigger number to take that hit,” Earnhardt said. “These smaller teams are resilient. They are creative. They make so little work and go so far for them they’d be able to make that adjustment more confidently than I would as an owner.”

You can listen to the full podcast below and watch the NASCAR America segment on the subject above.