NASCAR Nationwide Series Struggling to Fill Field and Provide Good Races

At the beginning of the 2013 season NASCAR cut the number of cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series races to 40 cars from 43. Mainly this was due to the high number of start-and-park cars that were filling the field in the 2012 season.

The 2014 season started with 48 cars on the Daytona entry list. That is not out of the normal as most every team that fields cars for the series want to compete in that race and sometimes even field more cars than on a normal race weekend. Last week at Phoenix there were only 39 teams that showed up to the west coast race. Now this week there are only 38 teams on the preliminary entry list for the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Nationwide Series has a lot of issues with it and it starts with the economy. Ever since sponsorship started becoming more scarce it has hurt the competition in NASCAR’s secondary series. It is also the reason why Sprint Cup Series drivers run the series and for the most part dominate.

Only seven of the 33 races last season were won by drivers not racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series. Two of those were by AJ Allmendinger who won twice on road courses in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford and two were by Regan Smith. Those two drivers have a lot of Cup experience. The same can be said of Sam Hornish Jr and even Trevor Bayne who both won once. Ryan Blaney was the only driver last season to win that had never raced in the Cup Series.

Kyle Busch won 12 times in his 26 starts last season and looks like he is going to be just as dominant this year if the race on Saturday at Phoenix is any indication. Brad Keselowski won seven of his 16 starts last year and his teammate Joey Logano won three of his 15 starts. Altogether those three drivers won 22 of the 36 races.

With the same winners and in a lot of cases dominant performances the races a lot of times are not that entertaining. The current Nationwide Series car can be blamed for a lot of that since the configuration has not provided very competitive racing on the track. To NASCAR’s credit they have tried to fix the car in the Cup Series before spending a lot of time and effort in making the Nationwide Series car better.

Throughout the 2014 season small fields under the 40 count can be expected. Small teams do not have a chance to compete with the big Nationwide teams at this point which is keeping them away from the track more and more. NASCAR is looking into limiting the number of races that Cup drivers can run in the series but that is not really the answer since tracks need big name drivers to help sell tickets and make their event relevant. Also the sponsors are still going to want the Sprint Cup star in the car over an unproven name.

What could fix some of the problems is having more Nationwide Series races at non-Sprint Cup Series tracks but that is something NASCAR will not be very willing to do.

With the current car a very similar season to what was seen in 2013 can be expected once again.

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