Should NASCAR Emphasize Winning in Lower Levels Before Earning a License in the Top-3 Divisions?

By Joseph Wolkin
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR is a sport for highly sophisticated individuals. Despite what was said in a South Park episode, NASCAR isn’t for the “poor or stupid.” However, some drivers are coming up to the top national series within NASCAR when they aren’t prepared for it because they’re simply rich.

It takes a lot of skill to race in NASCAR’s top three divisions. Not to take away anything from the development series such as the ARCA Series or the NASCAR Hometrack divisions, but they amount of competition in those levels don’t equal to that in the top three NASCAR divisions. All the drivers in these series know that and understand that if they can win in those series, their talent will evidently take them to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Some of the drivers in these lower series have such coveted careers, yet they never get the chance to race at the top level because they don’t have the money. Look at Greg Pursley. He’s arguably one of the best NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers in the history of that series, winning a championship and 14 races within the past five years. However, he’s only been able to run in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series four times because he doesn’t have the money nor does he team have it.

Then there’s a new story developing. Apparently, Go Green Racing will have Maryeve Dufault in the No. 70 NASCAR Nationwide Series car for at least one race this year. Dufault is known as a model and a racer as well. However, in her only NASCAR start, she stopped her car in the middle of one of the most dangerous turns at Road America in 2011 and was at risk to cause a severe wreck. Her ARCA Series statistics don’t say much about her driving either. Dufault only has one top-10 finish in 17 starts in that series and finished on the lead lap just five times in those events. So, what enables her to run at such a high level series?

Well, NASCAR basically distributes licenses based upon what a driver has accomplished in their careers. It isn’t too difficult to earn a lower level series license as long as you have a small history of racing cars. However, as drivers move up, the licensing process becomes more difficult.

There appears to be something wrong with the system though. The sport is handing over licenses to drivers that haven’t even had a small amount of success besides winning in late model divisions. Let’s look at Paulie Harraka. His situation is odd; he won several NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races within two years. Then he went to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and did horrific. He couldn’t even tally up a single top-15 finish. However, he was given a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series license last weekend and ended up wrecking before he even left pit road for the pace laps.

Clearly, NASCAR needs to decide on a solid curriculum in order to run in the top-three divisions. Here’s how I envision it.

  • Camping World Truck Series:
  • Have at least five top-10 finishes in the ARCA Series or NASCAR Hometrack Series.
  • Run at least 10 professional stock car races.
  • Finish on the lead lap in at least half of those races.
  • Nationwide Series:
  • Doesn’t have to run the Camping World Truck Series, but needs to have been in a full-season in at least one NASCAR division or ARCA Series.
  • Must have recorded top-10 finishes in at least 25 percent of the races he/she has run in.
  • Win is preferred but not required.
  • Sprint Cup Series:
  • Run at least one full season in the Camping World Truck Series or Nationwide Series.
  • Finished within top-15 in points.
  • Did not have more than five accidents throughout each season they raced in the Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series.
  • Must have finished on lead lap in at least 20 Nationwide Series races and 15 Camping World Truck Series races.

This should be a trendsetter for all sports with minor league systems. It can help NASCAR become an industry leader in yet another category and should be able to help groom young drivers without having them rushed up to the top so quickly.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.


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