SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Who doesn’t love a good photo finish?
Since Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp set the standard for excitement more than half a century ago, NASCAR fans have lived for heart stopping finishes.
That being said, Saturday’s narrow margin of victory in the Irish Hills 250 should’ve brought down the house. Instead, it brought about feelings of frustration and monotony, as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran took the win for the 11th time in 13 NASCAR XFINITY Series events this season.
Heading into this season, there was a blissful sense of optimism throughout the air. After years of fans begging for less Cup driver participation in XFINITY events, their demands were met with compromise. NASCAR wouldn’t totally ban Cup participation, but they promised to limit it.
As a longtime supporter of this movement, nothing made me happier. Surely, this experiment couldn’t go awry, right?
The season-opening Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona gave NASCAR and XFINITY Series fans alike exactly what they were looking for – a thrilling race highlighted by series regular Ryan Reed’s victory over the Goliaths of NASCAR.
However, a week later in Atlanta, fans were treated to the Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch show, with Busch eventually taking a less-than-popular victory.
Despite a win by Justin Allgaier at Phoenix, thanks to the Cup veteran-restricting Dash 4 Cash program, NASCAR’s participation limit has made little, if no difference at all.
Rather than having six or seven Cup drivers in a given XFINITY event, their schedules are now more spread out, with team owners hoping to keeping a Cup driver in the seat for as many races as possible.
Although that might mean less Cup drivers in a given race, it still leaves two or three in every event in top-tier equipment.
Consequently, names are not being made, regardless of what the series slogan might lead you to believe.
There seems to be a small faction of people who argue that Cup drivers are absolutely vital to the XFINITY Series; that seats won’t be sold and TV ratings will drop if Kyle Busch or Joey Logano aren’t in the field.
While that might (emphasis on might) be a problem for the more casual viewer, isn’t pure domination an even bigger problem? Who wants to watch a race when they can predict the outcome before the green flag drops?
Heck, I consider myself one of the biggest NASCAR fans in the world, but even I contemplate skipping the XFINITY races when I know it’s a Cup-dominated field.
Growing up, I loved the XFINITY Series. To be completely honest, I might have loved it even more than Cup. It was a fun series, a series where the main story was the true underdogs of the sport.
In all my years of attending XFINITY races, my family never purchased a ticket in hopes of seeing a Cup driver compete – we bought tickets because we knew we’d see a great race, perhaps the best one of the weekend.
Now, in more recent years, the attitude has shifted to praying and holding onto crumbs of optimism that the race won’t be a 200-lap Cup Series charity race.
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