Monday, September 11, 2006

Not The End Of The World

Kevin Harvick is well on his way to holding the highest points lead in the history of the NASCAR Busch Series. This may be upsetting to those who decry the presence of Cup regulars in that series, known as :"Buschwhackers." They believe that the NASCAR Busch Series, or NBS, should remain a second-rate series for second-rate drivers, and feature second-rate racing.
Of course I disagree with the detractors. Any driver who is willing to race 72 races a year is, in my book, a true racing hero. It hearkens back to the days of Ned Jarrett, Lee Petty, and Ralph Earnhardt. Back then, the Busch series was known as the Sportsman Series, and the Cup was the Grand National Series. Neither series was considered the "Premier" series; they were merely two different divisions featuring different specs for the cars. Two, or sometimes three times a week, the drivers of those days would climb into a car and race. This often meant they would participate in over ninety races a season.
The presence of the "Buschwhackers" has increased the quality of racing in the NBS by all accounts. Drivers who may never get a chance to race full time in Cup--David Green, Stanton Barrett, and Stacey Compton, for instance, get a chance to hone their skills against the Cup drivers. Developmental drivers, the future stars of NASCAR, such as Paul Menard, Steven Leicht, David Gilliland, and Aric Almerido, get more experience in shorter races in competition with the likes of Harvick, Mark Martin, and Carl Edwards. As the level of competition increases, so does the quality of the learning experience of these drivers.
If the Cup drivers are "slumming" in the NBS, they are selling tickets. The Busch Series does well where there are stand alone races at venues where there are no Cup races, such as Milwaukee, Kentucky, Memphis, and Nashville. However,at places like Martinsville, which features an NBS race on the same weekend as the Pennsylvania 400, no Cup drivers means no tickets. These days, one could draw the conclusion that if there were no Buschwhackers, the NBS would be doomed.
I understand the argument put forth by some of the team owners in the Busch Series, that the presence of the full time Cup drivers takes away from points and prize money. I agree that the points system should be tweaked to favor the non-Cup full time Busch teams, and it could be. The prize money will grow with the exposure, for as exposure increases, so will the sponserships. Technology availability will also increase for the "poor" teams, as the Cup teams provide more equipment to and form more partnerships with these teams. The "Car of Tomorrow" Cup program will provide even more high quality equipment to the Busch teams as those in the Cup will phase out the cars they have now.
All in all, Harvick and the others can only benifit the NBS, which in turn will benifit the Elite and Grand National weekly series, for those two divisions will become more important as the "Farm" leagues of NASCAR. Those who lament the upgrading of the NBS can still see excellent racing at their local short and dirt tracks, for far less than the cost of travel time and tickets for the Busch Series races.
So, to Kevin Harvick, I say "Go for it!"

No comments: