NASCAR is cutting the field size in its No. 2 series yet again.
The sanctioning body said Wednesday that field sizes in the Xfinity Series would drop to 36 in 2020. Current Xfinity Series fields consist of 38 cars.
In 2012, the Xfinity Series field was 43 cars, equal to what the field size was then in the top-level Cup Series. It’s been trimmed ever since to 40 in 2013 and then to 38 ahead of the 2019 season.
It’s not because of car counts. Sixteen of the 22 Xfinity Series races contested so far have had 38 cars in them. And nine of those 16 full-field races have had cars that failed to qualify. Contrast that with the Cup Series, which has had a max field of 40 cars for just four of 24 races in 2019.
Instead, NASCAR is ostensibly doing it to make it possible for the teams that show up on a weekly basis in the Xfinity Series to get more money from race purses. The same pie with 36 slices instead of 38 will yield slightly larger slices.
But it’s also worth remembering that NASCAR cut the size of the pie significantly on two occasions in 2010. The sanctioning body cut 10 percent from race purses ahead of the 2010 season and then announced in August of that year that race purses would be cut by an additional 20 percent in 2011. Those cuts were made to benefit the tracks that pay the race purses.
Now, NASCAR is cutting field size for the second year in a row in addition to further limiting the presence of Cup Series drivers in the Xfinity Series. Veteran Cup drivers are currently limited to seven Xfinity Series starts a year. That number will be five in 2020.
With the sanctioning body set to take official ownership of tracks owned and operated by its corporate spinoff International Speedway Corporation and other track operator Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the time sure seems right for NASCAR’s television revenue to be divided up a tad differently to better support the teams that compete every week.
That TV revenue, the primary source of income for the series and all of those who are involved in it, primarily goes to tracks ahead of teams and the sanctioning body itself. And from an outsider’s perspective, it stands to reason that NASCAR could afford to budge a little bit on that distribution now that it’s getting the TV revenue marked for the soon-to-be former ISC tracks and the cash it’s currently getting.
Instead, the move to eliminate the 19th row of the grid sure looks like a sign that NASCAR isn’t willing to entertain that option. Or if it is, it’s not willing to do that without teams making concessions too.
And eliminating two spots from the back of the Xfinity Series field — a place where the gap between the haves and have nots in team revenue is as seemingly large as the gap in America itself — doesn’t really affect the teams that run up front every week thanks to their Cup team affiliations. Instead, it’s a blow to the teams that scrap to simply show up to race each week.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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