Carl Edwards says he will not compete on the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season for the first time in seven years. Kyle Busch is set to announce a Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series schedule this week that will reportedly include only a small fraction of the events he drove a year ago. Kevin Harvick has divested himself of his Nationwide and Truck Series operation, and is expected to run only a limited schedule of events for Richard Childress Racing. Brad Keselowski will share his #22 Penske Racing Nationwide ride with youngster Parker Kligerman.
Even with the addition of Danica Patrick to the Nationwide ranks on a full-time basis, It appears the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series’ will have considerably less star power in 2012 than they did a year ago. The question is; is that necessarily a bad thing?
Does the absence of drivers like Edwards and Busch spell trouble for the Nationwide and Truck Series’ this season? The answer is yes. And no.
While a NNS or NCWTS race devoid of Cup drivers may have diminished appeal to fans long accustomed to Cup-rich Saturday fields, fewer superstars in the lineup will also open the door for Nationwide and Truck Series regulars to run better and win more. NASCAR made the right move a year ago by regulating Cup drivers out of title contention in the lower series, and the prospect of Kenny Wallace, Elliott Sadler, James Buescher and Jason Leffler visiting Victory Lane a time or two this season should appeal to as many ticket-buyers as the loss of the big names will drive away.
Clearly, reduced involvement by Cup drivers will result in more trophies going home with Nationwide and Truck Series regulars this season. Over time, it will also allow younger drivers to grab a larger share of the national spotlight; building their own brands and accelerating their careers at a faster rate than previously possible.
If you’re a cost-conscious race fan who enjoyed seeing Sprint Cup stars at Nationwide and Truck Series prices in recent seasons, the pickings will be slimmer this year. If you enjoy rooting for Kyle Busch to sweep an entire, three-race NASCAR weekend, you’ll also have less to get excited about. But if parity, emerging young stars and a race that could go any of a dozen different ways is what you want, 2012 may just be your year.