Busch Series needs an overhaul

Busch Series needs an overhaul

Busch Series needs an overhaul
Steve Wilson

Aric Almirola scored the first Busch Series victory of his young NASCAR career Saturday night at the Milwaukee Mile. So then why was Denny Hamlin the driver celebrating in victory lane?

The answer is simple enough, but it hints at a bigger problem that NASCAR needs to address in its junior series.

Hamlin was scheduled to drive the No. 20 car Saturday night in Milwaukee, but he was late getting to the track from Nextel Cup series practice in Sonoma, Calif. and Almirola - who had already put Hamlin’s car on the pole earlier in the day during qualifying - started the race.

Almirola led 43 of the first 57 laps, but Hamlin replaced him during a pit stop, who went on to win the race. Almirola, a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, left the track understandably upset at losing out on the opportunity to get his first Busch series victory.

The decision to pull Almirola out of the car was scrutinized the rest of the weekend. But while it was disappointing to see a young, talented driver like Almirola deprived of such a big opportunity, the blame here should not be directed toward Gibbs Racing, but rather toward NASCAR, which has allowed the Busch Series to become nothing more than a weekly test session for Cup drivers.

A few years ago, in an effort to make the Nextel Cup series more affordable for smaller teams, NASCAR limited the number of official test dates at Cup tracks and took away access to Goodyear tires for testing at independent locations. As a result, Cup drivers and owners have flooded into the Busch series to take advantage of the extra time it affords them on the track.

The impact has been staggering. In the past season and a half, full-time Nextel Cup drivers have dominated the Busch series - winning 48 of the 52 races run.

Every time a full-time Cup driver wins a Busch race, it becomes that much harder for up-and-coming drivers to compete, both on and off the track. Sponsors want to get to victory lane, and with Cup drivers winning so many races in the series, many Busch teams have no choice but to put a Cup driver behind the wheel any chance they can get - even at the expense of a talented young driver.

“What’s really hard to sell in the Busch Series is a full sponsor for a young guy,” said JGR president J.D. Gibbs. “What works best - you’ve got to be able to sell the Cup guy, get more money - and it helps the young guy run.”

There are, however, solutions to the problem. Whether it is lifting the restrictions on testing, or limiting the number of races Cup drivers can run in the Busch series, it is NASCAR’s responsibility to step in and make the series accessible to developing teams and drivers.

Maybe then young drivers like Almirola can finally get their chance to celebrate in Victory Lane.


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Re: Busch Series needs an overhaul

Once Nascar goes to the COT fulltime you will see less and less drivers dropping down and using the Busch races as testing sessions I think.

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