NASCAR May Have Just Unofficially Eliminated Cup Drivers in Lower Series

By Toby Christie, Editor — Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie

On Thursday, NASCAR released new rules for the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoor Truck Series seasons. While there were a ton of new rules announced — I will get to some of those in a few — nothing is bigger than the incentive NASCAR just gave car owners to keep Cup Series drivers out of their Xfinity and Truck Series rides.

Starting in 2019, wins by Cup Series drivers in either of the other two NASCAR National Series will not count toward playoff points, or berths for the teams in which they compete.

This means if any owner wants to be able to run for the owner’s championship, they must stick with series regular drivers. Cup drivers had already been eliminated from driving for lower tier series championships while running for the Cup Series title in recent years. Then NASCAR took their rules to the next step by limiting the races in which Cup Series drivers could participate in the NXS and NGOTS.

Cup drivers have won just 12 of the 22 Xfinity Races contested so far this year.

Now, NASCAR will take things a step further as they are eliminating the only benefit that car owners received by having the Cup Series drivers behind the wheel. This may or may not finally cut Cup Series drivers out for good, but rest assured you will see far less Cup Series drivers in either Series in 2019 and beyond with this new rule.

“It’s important to know that we didn’t discourage that the other way,” NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Operations, John Bobo said. “We want teams and owners to hire drivers from lower series and give them an opportunity in the higher series…

“When we got our driver participation rules this last season, I think we felt it was a pretty good mix, but we continue to look at that and creating the type of balance that we need, so we’re curious to see how this rule impacts that, and we’ll be really curious to see what it does. But we also think that it presents something really important, which is as we go into the playoffs, we don’t want a Xfinity team owner or a Truck team owner to hire Cup drivers to come in and win them additional points for the playoffs.”

It was also announced that Xfinity Series fields will shrink from 40 cars to 38 next season, with the extra prize money from the eliminated positions being distributed evenly through the remaining field.

NASCAR will also add a past champion’s provisional to each the Xfinity Series and Truck Series next season as well.

Bobo also said that revised participation rules for Cup Series drivers in other series would be coming soon. It looks like the 2019 season will look and feel a little bit different for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series.

Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images