CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Column by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
Let’s get a show of hands: How many people could have fallen asleep (or did) during the TreatMyClot.com 300 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series on Saturday in Fontana?
Okay, all of you who are part of the NASCAR community that still has their sanity can put your hands down now.
Anyone who was actually entertained by Kyle Busch leading 133 of the first 149 laps of the race this weekend and preparing his fourth straight victory celebration, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??
I get that a few of you are probably Rowdy fans, and that it’s fun to watch your favorite driver win, whether its on Saturday or Sunday. I’m not begrudging you that. But come on, doesn’t the race fan in you long for at least a little excitement?
Other than Daytona (which gets a pass because ANY restrictor-plate race is at least mildly entertaining due to the nature of pack racing), the rest of the NXS races this year have been flat dreadful. It’s not just been bad, it’s appalling watching how much the Sprint Cup Series regulars have been beating up on their XFINITY counterparts.
Here’s some numbers for you.
- By himself, Kyle Busch has won 60% of the races this season and led 75.15% of the total laps run, despite not even running in the first race of the season at Daytona.
- As a whole, Sprint Cup regulars have won 100% (read, five of five) of the XFINITY races run this season, finished in the top five 56% of the time (14 of 25 possible positions) and led 93.16% of the total laps run this season.
The series and NASCAR has been trying to market this series with the slogan “Names are Made Here”.
My response? How in the heck can a young driver make their name in the XFINITY Series when Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon smother the winner’s circle every week?!
I’m just going to be frank. I’m fed up with watching the XFINITY Series scorecard continue to sit at zero for the drivers who are supposed to be regulars and racing for wins and a championship. I was so bored that I almost turned the channel with 30 laps to go when it was clear that Rowdy was (yet again…) running away with the trophy.
I’m glad I didn’t.
The XFINITY Series has desperately needed a spark — anything remotely close to one, really — and the final lap of Saturday’s snoozer at Fontana woke me up and gave me hope that the whole season might not be as dreadful as I’ve feared the last several weeks.
Busch, on his way to a fourth straight victory, blows a tire going into turn one on the last lap. Young teammate and reigning Rookie of the Year Daniel Suarez powers past him in turn two and appears to be on his way to Victory Lane.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, “This is finally going to be the day when a series regular actually wins a race!”
And … then Suarez runs out of gas halfway down the backstretch. It’s heartbreak for the young Drive for Diversity graduate. But wait! We’re not done! Busch takes back the lead … on three wheels!
Are you kidding me?! I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I was on the edge of my seat like I haven’t been for an XFINITY race in years.
And off turn four, here comes Austin Dillon, from 10 seconds back. He sweeps to the outside of Busch, who (surprise, surprise) tries to shunt Dillon in the left-rear quarter panel in a last ditch effort to try and somehow win the race.
That doesn’t work, and Richard Childress Racing — of all teams — goes on to become the ones to slam the door square in the face of the Kyle Busch juggernaut. At least for this week.
I was finally amped up after the finish we got at Fontana this weekend. The level of excitement and energy, plus the sheer fact that Busch finally got beat, is almost exactly what the series has so desperately needed.
Now, let me be fair — I’m not advocating that we need to have drivers blowing tires and hitting walls every week.
I’m as much media member as I am race fan now, and the last thing I want is to see is any driver, no matter who it is, get hurt because of an on-track incident. Our sport has had too much of that the last few years, across all levels from national to local, and I’m certainly thankful for all the safety innovations we’ve taken to lessen the chance of something like that happening.
But, the way that last lap played out did offer a spectacular ending to a race that was set to become another forgotten page in NASCAR’s “Identity Crisis” of a second-tier series. Instead of a footnote, Saturday’s Fontana race became one that will carry with it the moniker of “one of the greatest finishes in NASCAR history” for the rest of the sport’s existence.
I’ll finish by going back to something I said a few minutes ago. I said the ending moment was almost perfect because Dillon was the driver who beat Busch. For the moment to have been perfect, Daniel Suarez, Darrell Wallace Jr. or one of the other XFINITY regulars needed to be the one celebrating in Victory Lane. Instead, we got a Cup star beating up on “little brother” for the fifth straight week.
I’ve said for years that if NASCAR ever wants the XFINITY Series to be anything more than a shadow of its premier Cup Series (hence why our Senior Editor Tom Baker calls it ‘Cup Lite’), it needs to either severely limit the number of races a Cup driver can run or kick them out completely. (That’s a column for another day, though.) Since I don’t see any of that happening any time soon, unfortunately, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
But at the very least, Saturday was a spark. It may have been a small one, and it may not start a fire like I’m not-so-secretly praying it will, but it was a spark.
And I suppose, with the current climate the series is faced with, that’s all any of us can really ask for right now.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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