More cash, tradition would help Busch Series
Folks, I think that most Busch teams are telling NASCAR, "Show me the money. Show me that you're serious about making the Busch Series a series for Busch teams." And I have a number of ideas of how to do that.
A lot of the changes that I've heard so far only would diminish the value of the Busch Series, which will become the Nationwide Series in 2008. That's the concern I have. Limiting or not allowing Cup drivers to run in the Busch Series would be a big mistake, as would changing the car in 2009.
Run current Cup car
Everybody says, "Oh, this series needs its own identity." It will have its own identity with the Car of Tomorrow running in Cup every week next year. The current car would give the Busch Series its own separate identity.
In order to save the teams money and improve the quality of the fields, I would take the old Cup cars that will be obsolete at the end of this year and make them legal to run in the Busch Series. Just do the math, folks.
Hundreds of incredibly great race cars will become obsolete at the end of this year. There's no need to put them in the junkyard or out on the back lot when so many teams - whether it's Hooters Cup, ARCA or Busch - could afford to buy them.
I would not even consider putting a financial burden on these teams to change to a different kind of car next year or in the next 10 years. That's how NASCAR ended up with the 105-inch wheel base cars in the Busch Series vs. 110 in Cup. They decided that the Busch Series needed it's own identity several years ago so they decided they would run shorter wheel base cars with V-6 engines. That way, you couldn't run a Busch car in the Cup Series.
Everybody thought that was a good idea except that the guys that were competing in the Busch Series at the time. They said, "Man, I drive this short wheel base V-6 Busch car, and when I get in a Cup car, I am lost." So if this is going to be a feeder series - if that's the idea and if that's what the Busch Series is supposed to be - then they've got to run cars that are similar to what the Cup guys drive. So I'd try to keep somewhat of a sister car to what the Cup guys race.
Bonus for Busch drivers
Here's what the Busch Series needs to make it attractive to be a Busch team. Don't tell the Cup guys they can't race with you. That would be a mistake. Besides, how are you going to replace the 15 to 20 cars driven by Cup drivers that show up every week? Getting rid of those drivers doesn't make any sense to me.
Instead, I would have a bonus for the highest-finishing Busch driver of the week, and I don't mean a points bonus. I mean a dollar bonus. These Busch teams need money because they can't get sponsorship. They struggle to make it so they need finances. The highest-finishing Busch driver gets a $25,000 bonus. The second-highest gets $15,000 and the third-highest gets $10,000. And that's what they would get every week. Teams couldn't manipulate that rule. You either are or aren't a Busch driver.
I would allow a driver to run five Cup races in a year and still maintain his Busch status. If he runs more Cup events, he doesn't qualify for the bonus. That's money that these Busch teams desperately need to improve the quality of their equipment and the race teams themselves so they can hire better people. It's not about dumbing down the series. It's about bringing everybody up to the level that some of Cup teams are. It's OK to have a Cup affiliation. I'd strongly suggest it. But don't say that you can't have a Cup driver run in the Busch Series.
A lot of people will say, "Well, the Cup guys are still going to win the championship." You would see competition improve if money was pumped into the series to the Busch regulars, like Braun Racing and Fitz Motorsports. Those teams need money, so that's the first thing I would do - a big bonus every week for the highest-finishing Busch driver.
Back to short tracks
I would also go back to the short tracks. What made the Busch Series strong and fun and developed drivers was short track racing. Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and I came from the short tracks. When we had Busch cars, we ran the short tracks. There weren't many superspeedways for Busch cars to run, so they went to Hickory, Nashville, Bristol, South Boston and Myrtle Beach.
That's when the Busch Series was at its best, developing not only drivers, but fans as well. Believe it or not - and NASCAR doesn't seem to recognize it, short track racing is the backbone of our sport. It's where fans get a taste of what we do at a level that they can afford. Turning their back on the short tracks and looking at only superspeedways has been a real detriment to the Busch Series.
Buschwhackers promote competition
I don't see how a fan can complain about seeing two great days of racing, seeing all of the Cup stars racing on Saturday and then seeing them race again on Sunday. It's two great shows in the same weekend. I just don't understand why fans would not think that was a great bargain and a great deal.
I want to see the Busch regulars have a better chance to be competitive. By including, not eliminating, competition and not trying to control competition, but enhancing it, the Busch Series would thrive. It's been the second-most important series in NASCAR and American racing in general for a long time, and it can continue to be. But somebody with more of a short track mentality needs to help turn around the series and make it what it used to be.
Oh, by the way
The purses are too low for the Busch Series. NASCAR needs to get some purses up there in the $800,000 to $1 million range to help the series. Don't weight it all at the top or put it all at the bottom, but spread it throughout the middle of the field where Busch regulars usually run. That would be another good way of pumping a little more money into the series.
Race fans like to see good competition. They like to see David vs. Goliath, and they like to see the underdog come through and be successful. I don't believe fans like to see things manipulated around to level the playing field and diminish the value of the series. They need to enhance the value of the series.
Oh, by the way, too
This final note isn't just about the Busch Series; it's about NASCAR in general. We talk about it all the time, but have you ever looked up the definition of "competition?" It's "rivalry for supremacy. A test of skill or ability. It's a contest." That's what racing is all about. It's a test of skill, and it's a contest. It's a battle for supremacy.
Then I got to thinking about how NASCAR always wants to keep everything the same and make everybody have the same car and use the same equipment. In my mind, that's parity. Listen to the definition of parity. "Equality of rank or status. Competition in which adversaries have equal resources." I don't know about you, but I just don't know how a sport can grow and thrive if teams are not allowed to go out and try to have the best team and the best results.
We thrive on competition. That's what all of us race for. It's the thrill of winning and beating the other guy. If you take any of that away, then the sport becomes complacent, and it's no fun to watch. We've got to be careful when we tread along those lines.