DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Kyle Busch’s thrilling move in the final few hundred feet of the Truck Series season opener led to his 99th win outside NASCAR’s top series.
The victory infuriated many fans. NASCAR heard them loud and clear.
NASCAR said Saturday it is looking at potentially limiting the number of second- and third-tier event Sprint Cup regulars can run during the season. Officials have already talked about a potential rules adjustments, and Busch’s win Friday night surely will lead to more discussions.
Maybe even a change.
“We’re definitely aware of the fan messaging we get,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations. “There’s a balance, especially talking to the tracks, of having a Cup driver or two in the Trucks or Nationwide. … We have had discussions with the race teams about ownership and should Cup drivers get points and we’ve looked at should they be limited in the number of races.
“It’s something we are really studying.”
Busch has 63 wins in the Nationwide Series and 36 more in the Truck Series. Busch and fellow Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski own Truck teams, and NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. owns a Nationwide team.
And with sponsorship key to funding those operations, corporations often agree to sponsorship deals with the guarantee that the driver/owners will get behind the wheel in a handful of races or more.
Tracks, television rights holders and NASCAR also all benefit from the draw of racing’s top drivers.
Of course, that usually means young and upcoming drivers get overlooked or left out of the car.
“We want to grow drivers through the series, but we also want eyeballs on the series, and what’s it going to take for that?” O’Donnell said.
Busch seemed to welcome the outrage over his victory.
“It’s me in the Truck Series,” Busch said Friday night when asked why fans were so upset with his win. “People don’t like it. I’m stealing candy from a baby. `Til the rules are changed or everybody else grows up and can beat me, then we’re racing.”
Busch, who won five of 11 Truck races last year and 12 of 26 Nationwide races, added he doesn’t care what fans think.
“I just do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I have a Truck team for a reason. If I didn’t drive it in some races, it wouldn’t be in existence. … Everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes people aren’t happy with the way life treats them. That’s their problem. I’m pretty blessed and happy to be where I’m at. I appreciate the things I’ve got going for me.”
Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owner and vice president of JR Motorsports, said she’s “lobbying real hard” with NASCAR to carefully consider the issue.
JR Motorsports won the Nationwide Series opener Saturday with Regan Smith, but also had Chase Elliott and Earnhardt in the field. The team will field full-time entries this season for Smith and rookie Elliott, but Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne also occasionally run a third car that helps bring additional funding to the program.
“We leverage those relationships so that we can have multi-race partnerships for our other cars,” she said. “It’s important to be able to have the Cup guys in our series. I think the young guys that are in the series like to be able to race against talent like Dale and Kevin and those guys.
“We’ll just have to find the balance for what makes it work. But it’s definitely part of our program and part of the leverage we use from a sponsorship standpoint.”