By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — NASCAR veteran Elliott Sadler has seemingly had it with the debate over what to do with Sprint Cup Series drivers entering and dominating Nationwide Series events.
Like most drivers on the tour, Sadler is appreciative of the bright spotlight that his Sprint Cup counterparts provide and also enjoys testing his mettle against the best in the business. On the other hand, fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the amount of success they enjoy on Saturdays, Cup drivers winning a majority of the races in dominating fashion and occupying most of the top spots.
For fans, this is a matter of brand identity for the Nationwide Series regulars but Sadler wishes the sport would just move on.
“I think that’s the stupidest debate in the history of any sport that I’ve ever been a part of,” Sadler told Popular Speed on Friday night. “We need Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series. We have to have them in the Nationwide Series.
“Anybody that says we don’t need them in our series does not know a single percent about racing … or anything about it.”
Sadler says that the Sprint Cup Series drivers bring an immeasurable amount of value to the Nationwide Series. The topic is en vogue right now with rumors circulating that NASCAR is looking at limiting the number of starts a Sprint Cup driver can make in a given season.
But Sadler believes that doing so would be the beginning of the end of the Nationwide Series, the lack of Sprint Cup drivers eliminating all the money and resources that pours into the division.
“Sprint Cup drivers put the fans in the seats… and keep the level of competition so high that it requires a better driver to compete against them.
“If (we get rid of them,) it won’t be long until we don’t have a Nationwide Series because the sponsors will leave, the car owners will jump out of it and the fans to the stands. So then purses will go down and teams will have to cut back and the competition will go down. That’s just my opinion.”
The Nationwide Series has evolved over the past 15 years, going from a division that operated separately from the Sprint Cup Series into a companion tour for that series, now running many of the same tracks and on the same weekends as the premiere division.
Indianapolis Raceway Park has been replaced with Indianapolis Motor Speedway. South Boston and Memphis has been replaced with the likes of Kentucky and Texas — and Sadler is not in favor of going back to the standalone heavy circuit of yesteryear.
“No, I think that’s stupid,” Sadler said, adding that Sprint Cup drivers have always competed in the Nationwide Series, regardless of the schedule. He cited one race, at Richmond in 1999, which featured 59 entries, many of them from the Sprint Cup Series.
“I understand that it’s a topic but Cup drivers have been racing Nationwide since I can remember,” he concluded. “I remember watching guys race on Saturday at South Boston, like Brett Bodine, Dale Jarrett and Sterling Marlin and those guys turned around and raced Talladega the very next day.
“The guys have always done this and it keeps the sport healthy.”
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