Commentary

Is pulling double duty really that great an idea?

David Ragan and Clint Bowyer are on the Chase bubble and geared up to race Sunday afternoon with a playoff berth on the line. Then they will hop into a Nationwide Series car and run Sunday night. Jeff Gordon's not sure it's a good use of their time, writes Terry Blount.

Updated: September 6, 2008, 5:57 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

RICHMOND, Va. -- Chase or no Chase, Clint Bowyer and David Ragan have another race to run on Sunday besides the one that decides their Sprint Cup playoff fate.

And Jeff Gordon just doesn't get it. Gordon doesn't see the logic in racing all the Nationwide events while trying to do your job in Cup.

"I can't tell you how happy I am not to be in that [Nationwide] race," Gordon said.

Rain forced NASCAR to run both the Sprint Cup race (ESPN and ESPN360.com, 1 p.m. ET), and the Nationwide Series event (ESPN2 and ESPN360.com, 7 p.m. ET) on Sunday, so Bowyer and Ragan are two Cup drivers with double duty. But Bowyer and Ragan are the only two drivers doing it on the most stressful weekend of their season.

The postponement probably works out better for both of them. They don't have to worry about the Nationwide race until after the Chase-decider race is over.

But if one or both of them fails to make the Chase, it won't be easy to strap in another car moments later and stay focused.

This illustrates the problem of Cup regulars racing full-time in the feeder series. Bowyer and Ragan are two of four Cup drivers (along with Carl Edwards and David Reutimann) racing the entire Nationwide season.

Bowyer is trying to win the Nationwide title, hoping to become the third consecutive Cup regular to claim the crown in NASCAR's version of Triple-A baseball.

But Bowyer has bigger concerns for the moment. He is 12th in the standings, only 17 points ahead of Ragan in the race for the final Chase spot.

Bowyer is one of the friendliest guys in NASCAR, but the tension showed on Friday when he tried to quickly end an interview session at his hauler.

"I'm just trying to stay focused," he said. "I have to help the guys do their jobs so I can do my job and stay honed in on the task at hand."

Unfortunately, he has more than one task to consider. Gordon, who also is hoping to clinch a Chase spot Sunday, said he believes the other Chase contenders wish they weren't in the Nationwide event.

"Not one driver I've talked to enjoys [competing] in the Nationwide races this year," Gordon said.

So why are they doing it?

Chase-clinching scenarios

Kyle Busch (pictured), Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton already have spots reserved in the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup. But spots 6 through 12 won't be decided until this weekend's race at Richmond. Here are how the contenders stack up:

• Greg Biffle: Needs to start the race.

• Kevin Harvick: Needs to start the race.

• Tony Stewart: Finish 36th, finish 37th and lead at least one lap, or finish 40th and lead the most laps.

• Matt Kenseth: Finish 26th, finish 28th and lead at least one lap, or finish 30th and lead the most laps.

• Jeff Gordon: Finish 24th, finish 25th and lead at least one lap, or finish 28th and lead the most laps.

• Denny Hamlin: Finish 21st, finish 22nd and lead at least one lap, or finish 25th and lead the most laps.

• Clint Bowyer: Win, or finish third and lead the most laps.

• David Ragan: Win and lead the most laps.

*Kasey Kahne is the only other driver mathematically eligible if Ragan and Kahne start the race.

"It's called commitment," Gordon said. "They made a commitment they all wish they could get out of. Maybe they need to buy a new bus or a nicer airplane. But I love sitting in my bus and watching those races."

Gordon has not raced in a Nationwide event in eight years. He said he has no desire to follow the trend of many Cup regulars who compete in 10 to 20 Nationwide events a year.

"Who knows? I might do one or two down the road," Gordon said. "But doing it week in and week out, and [on] a weekend like this one or during the Chase, I don't see where it makes any sense."

NASCAR officials recently announced the Nationwide Series won't switch to the new car, the Car of Tomorrow, chassis until 2010. For now, the cars have little in common with the new cars used in Cup.

So the only advantage to racing in both series is track time. It's beneficial to drivers starting out in Cup, but racing the entire Nationwide Series can be draining for a guy trying to accomplish major goals in Cup.

"I did five or six [Nationwide] races a few years back," Gordon said. "To me, [racing Cup and Nationwide] took the fun right out of it. You would go from one car and run over to the other one. Maybe one was running good and one car was not running good.

"I didn't feel like I was doing either job well. I felt like I did both of them mediocre. So I prefer to just focus on one to do the best job I can."

Bowyer isn't in position to focus entirely on making the Chase. He has a responsibility to the Nationwide team and its sponsors to try to win the championship.

The Nationwide Series has seven events remaining once the Chase starts. Six are companion races at the same speedway as the Cup event. But one is in Memphis the day before the Atlanta Cup event on Oct. 26, meaning the Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide event will have to fly from Atlanta to Memphis and back.

Edwards is the one Chase competitor expected to do it. Bowyer or Ragan probably will be another. They get to do it on private jets and then helicopter to the tracks, but it still has to take part of the focus off the primary goal in the Chase.

Bowyer finished third in the Chase last year when he didn't run the entire Nationwide schedule. Edwards won the Nationwide championship and finished ninth in the Chase after starting the playoff in the fourth spot.

The question is whether it's worth it. If Bowyer or Ragan doesn't make the Chase this time, do you think they will run the full Nationwide schedule next year?

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

ALSO SEE