Rain coming through and postponing a race until the next morning is not normally something we celebrate, but in Iowa's case last weekend, we might have to make an exception. I don't know how many times this year I have heard people complaining about the number of Cup drivers in the Nationwide races or, more specifically, about them winning so many of them. Of course you can't really blame them with the dominant way Kyle Busch has handled it this year on too many occasions. There was certainly no question about Ryan Blaney's excitement of Joey Logano not being able to stick around for the race and I think a lot of fans echoed that, myself included.
I am a huge fan of the Nationwide series and its full time drivers; therefore, I was more than happy about the chance of a lot of young talent getting to race, and knowing for sure that one of them would win it--without any chance of a Cup driver stealing it away. Even though one driver still dominated the race, I imagine a lot of us were happy to see Austin Dillon's name on top instead of one of the more familiar Cup drivers' names. The battle for the lead in the final closing laps was fun to watch and seeing Trevor Bayne take home the win was certainly refreshing!
The Nationwide regulars showed they could put on a good race and stepped up to be the stars of the show that we know many of them will become in the Cup series someday. It was nice to see Drew Herring and Ryan Blaney get a good opportunity to showcase their talent and it was a nice change of pace hearing more about them on the TV broadcasts rather than the names that typically dominate the top of the running order. All around, it is a good thing for the sport and series to let these future stars have a time to shine. Iowa Speedway fans don't come to the track expecting to see the Buschs, Loganos or Kenseths- yet they know they'll still get to see amazing talent in a newer package.
So is this something we should want to happen more often, at more tracks across the country? It would be nice to at least have the Cup drivers more on a level where they didn't just walk off with the race, but if you ask the drivers, they want those guys in there. And they make a really good point - if they don't race against the drivers with current Cup experience, how will they learn to race at that level themselves? They do have competitors with Cup series experience racing them for the championship--like Brian Vickers, Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr., but there is something special about having Cup champions and consistent Chase contenders to compare themselves to.
NASCAR made a wonderful decision a few years ago when they took the Cup drivers out of being able to win the Nationwide Series championship. It was a huge deterrent for one or two Cup drivers who ran every single race on the schedule and encouraged teams and sponsors to invest in the next generation, in order to race for the drivers championship. All of a sudden, ESPN found new reason to talk about the Nationwide-only drivers and give them more airtime. That move worked out so well and they should be highly commended for it.
With that said, they should be careful about limiting Cup drivers' involvement. If NASCAR limited Cup drivers to only a certain number of races, it would make it more likely that we would have more truly stand-alone events like Iowa provided, and I, personally, could only see that as a big benefit. But, believe it or not, a lot of fans still watch Nationwide races in order to see the Cup stars--and attend the races in their area for the same reason. It's a cheaper way to see their favorite drivers race at a price they can afford. There is plenty of amazing talent in the Nationwide series and they should not, by any means, be ignored - in fact, the more the Cup-only fans see guys like Justin Allgaier and Parker Kligerman race, the more they will start cheering for them.
But for those of us who enjoy watching all of the talent the Nationwide Series has to offer, we finally got what we wanted on Sunday. Here's to another Nationwide championship contender winning in Michigan on Saturday!
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