Sources: Nationwide might get Chase
NASCAR officials are considering a possible Chase playoff format for the Nationwide Series next season that would exclude Sprint Cup competitors, sources confirmed Tuesday.
Officials discussed the possibility of limiting or eliminating points for a Cup driver who ranks in the top 35 in the Cup standings.
NASCAR president Mike Helton met with Nationwide Series team owners, drivers and crew chiefs Monday in Concord, N.C., to discuss cost-containment ideas and possible changes that would allow a Nationwide-only driver to win the championship.
If implemented, a Nationwide Series Chase probably would have fewer drivers and fewer races than the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which has 12 drivers for the final 10 events.
Whether that proposal will become a reality remains a question, as NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France told ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett that he doubted the Nationwide series would get a Chase.
"I don't think so. It's a shorter season, for starters with 10 fewer races or so. That would create some issues," France said. "We have four national divisions, so we've got to distinguish them and doing too many things wouldn't do that. I don't think you'll see that."
However, France said creating a structure where a Nationwide regular can win that series instead of a Sprint Cup regular remains a goal.
"What we've got to have is it has to be a place where we can create new talent. They are completely submerged on a stage where there are so many Cup drivers," France said. "That's been evolving in the last six or seven years where there are so many more drivers competing on Saturday from Sunday and we have to make that series work better than it is. It's working fine, but it can work better."
Full-time Sprint Cup drivers have won the past four Nationwide Series titles and a Cup driver probably will win it again this season. Brad Keselowski holds a commanding lead over Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, all three of whom are Cup regulars.
NASCAR wants to bring more attention to Nationwide Series drivers who don't compete regularly in the Cup series. Officials discussed the possibility of limiting or eliminating points for a Cup driver who ranks in the top 35 in the Cup standings.
Sunday Drivers, Saturday Money
A Nationwide regular hasn't won the series championship since Martin Truex Jr.'s back-to-back titles in 2004-05. Here's the last four series champs and the highest-finishing Nationwide Series regulars:
|2009||Kyle Busch||Jason Leffler (4th)|
|2008||Clint Bowyer||Brad Keselowski (3rd)|
|2007||Carl Edwards||Jason Leffler (3rd)|
|2006||Kevin Harvick||Paul Menard (6th)|
Cup drivers still could compete in all the Nationwide events, but not compete for the championship. The team owner of those cars would continue to receive owners points, which would allow the car to win the owner's championship, but not the driver championship.
This would appease sponsors, which still would win a championship as the primary sponsor on the car.
The other major topic of the meeting was cost containment. NASCAR may cut purse money at Nationwide events by as much as 20 percent next season because of decreased attendance at the tracks. Only a handful of tracks that host Nationwide events this season made a profit off of those races.
One possible cost-saving measure is to limit to traveling crews for each team, something that was done previously in the Camping World Truck Series. Officials also discussed limits to the numbers of engines a team would use during the season.
Teams also talked about making sure the new Nationwide car, which is the same chassis as the Cup car with the same safety features, remains different from the Cup version.
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com.