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Is NASCAR killing the Nationwide Series?

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A bit hyperbolic? Yes. But the health of the Nationwide Series is a valid concern now that it's been announced that purses are being cut by 20 percent for 2011.

From the AP:

But, going forward, the sanctioning body needs to ensure that track operators don’t lose money hosting the Nationwide Series.

“The purse and the sanctioning fees have gone up a tremendous amount of money over the last 15 years,” said Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., the second largest track operator in NASCAR.

“It’s been difficult in this economy to find ways to be ease the burden on track operators, who have already reduced ticket prices to help our fans. Cutting the purses is some relief, and a response from NASCAR to us reducing costs for the fans.”

While there's been talk about limiting Cup drivers in the series for 2011 -- and no official decision has been made about that -- this decision may have more impact on the health of the series than anything that NASCAR does to prevent Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski from competing for the Nationwide Series title.

Many Nationwide teams rely week-to-week for race sponsorships or simply don't have sponsorships at all. For those, their primary income is purse money, and you can guarantee that costs aren't going to go down 20 percent for 2011. Remember, teams are having to buy inventories of new cars for the full schedule.

Sure, teams like Humphrey-D'Hondt (Formerly MSRP and PRISM Motorsports in the Cup Series) have made a science out of starting and parking, and will most likely continue to do so every week, but there are teams that attempt to run the race when possible like Baker-Curb, Brian Keselowski's team and Morgan Shepherd's team.

The purse cut makes it even harder for teams like that to run more races, backhandedly encouraging them to start-and-park. Yes, it may prevent a new team from entering the series and starting and parking, but the Nationwide Series needs independent teams to be competitive to survive.

The current conditions don't allow that, and they don't show any signs of changing anytime soon. Don't be surprised if there's numerous Nationwide races in 2011 without a full field.

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