One reason not to hate Cup drivers in the lower series

When Kevin Harvick announced he was running the K&N West Series race at Sonoma, I thought it was pretty lame.

Seriously though — what was the point? It’s not like he needed road course laps under his belt like Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez or Ryan Blaney (who were also in the race). And it would have been an upset if Harvick didn’t win. So why take away from young, up-and-coming drivers’ opportunity to showcase their talent?

As it turned out, Harvick didn’t take away from them at all — it actually put a much bigger spotlight on one of the K&N drivers.

Harvick should be applauded for how he’s used his victory to essentially raise the profile of 22-year-old Will Rodgers, who was Harvick’s K&N teammate and finished second in the race.

A Maui-born driver who moved to California as a kid, Rodgers won the pole and led the first 26 laps before finishing second. He is fourth in K&N West points after Saturday’s race.

But let’s say Rodgers had won and Harvick wasn’t in the race. He wouldn’t be making an appearance on Harvick’s Sirius/XM Radio show tonight, wouldn’t have gotten to sit on the No. 4 team’s pit box on Sunday and wouldn’t have made relationships like this:


So even though Rodgers was denied his first career win, the publicity and connections gained through racing with Harvick might have been a victory in itself. After the race, Harvick business manager Josh Jones even offered to point Rodgers in the right direction with sponsorship.

Rodgers came to the Sonoma tweetup on Sunday morning and said despite finishing second, he was honestly feeling pretty good about how everything unfolded. After all, if that outcome ended up being his big break, it’ll be the biggest non-win he’ll ever get.

15 Replies to “One reason not to hate Cup drivers in the lower series”

  1. I have never had a problem with drivers running in our series, my only issue comes when they run lower series in cup equipment. For instance Kevin could easily be knocking on the door and have as many wins on the nationwide series has Kyle Busch has, except after the 2006 season he decided to drive from himself instead of continuing with our C except after the 2006 season he decided to drive from himself instead of continuing with RCR. Running his own KHI equipment made him human, they were constantly looking to improve, development talent and give young and old talent a home. None of that however would’ve existed had Kevin Harvick not drove his own equipment. Kyle Busch running GGR equipment gives everybody a bad name . You have arguably The best driver in the history of the sport running in what is the best equipment of the sport. He abandoned his own program after 1 year. At the end of the day much like Ryan Newman running a modified, Kyle Larson tony Stewart and kasey kahan running a sprint cars or even Ricky Stenhouse running midgets. The cup drivers do benefit and bring exposure to races and racers that otherwise would not get them. NASCAR used to utilize the young guns of the sport to showcase the lower divisions and Saturday night short track racing. 10 years ago it was not uncommon to have 5 cup driver show up at a short track on a Saturday night for the local track in the shadows of a cup event in the dragon. I have seen Dale Earnhardt sr come to my local track Many times in his living years to race and sign autographs. Stands will be packed For years the match races took place every pocono race weekend. Look at how much exposure the Snowball Derby has gotten the last 10 years , you can attribute that to cup drivers wanting to race after the season was over, look at some of the drivers that are benefiting as a result of that right now. So it’s definitely not all bad.

    1. Need an edit feature. Voice to text does not cooperate lol sorry everyone. I hope that makes some sense

    2. I expected this — Harvick beats up on K&N is a good thing. Larson beats up on Xfinity (3 wins so far this year) is a good thing. Kyle Busch beats up on Xfinity is a bad thing.

    3. And by your logic when Kyle Busch beats up on the Truck series in his own equipment that is okay?

  2. I agree with the points Jeremy makes. My problem is with the drivers that no longer have the skills to compete at the cup level who now race in the lower levels for the championship. It must be very discouraging for a 20 year old kid to lose to a guy in 40’s racing for a high buck team.

  3. Fifteen years ago, this is the sort of thing that happened from Cup drivers stepping down into the Xfinity Series. It would give guys exposure they otherwise wouldn’t get. But when the Cup guys dabbled, it was one offs or not even half of the races. Running a competitive team in the series 15 years ago without Cup support was viable. You had Rensi, ppc, Finch, Akins, Brewco, BACE, Herzog all doing it. Is there an Xfinity team without Cup affiliation that even has a shot to win now?

    Over the last decade it’s turned into Cup lite and pushed a lot of the young drivers out as it’s driven prices up. As a young driver you either have to put together twice the money for fewer races with a Cup team when their driver is out or run around in the teens and hope you have a David Gilliland moment.

    1. “Over the last decade it’s turned into Cup lite”

      The change is that the Cup teams are using Xfinity for development of talent, both behind the wheel and in the pits. A VERY smart thing for the Cup teams! And it helps the development to occasionally put a Busch, or a Harvick, or a Junior behind the wheel, to tell the team what the car is really doing, and to teach the team what working with talent is like.

      But you are right, it has changed the face of the series.

  4. One issue with the Cup drivers/teams running in the lower series is that it deprives the ‘regular’ teams of the ‘win and you’re in’ option that would make their lives a lot easier. Also, the money isn’t nearly as big in those series, and Cup teams sucking up the winners purses can make life tougher for many underfunded teams.

  5. So many good points in these comments. I had posted on one of the previous articles that Jeff Burton had made a good point about how Byron learned a lot when he was and could take great pride in his battle with Hamlin than winning at Iowa, he battled one of the elite and almost won. But I still think there should be less Cup driver’s in these races. I agree with slb, it takes a lot of money away from the little guys and probably does cost them more just trying to compete because the Cup affiliated have the big sponsor deals.

    I still say Cup driver’s should be limited even more, just 3-5 races a season and no more than 3 driver’s per race. That way the driver’s would have to put in for their most favorite races way ahead of time.

    1. the biggest problem is that while they take wins and purse money away, they bring exposure and with exposure they bring sponsors. its a catch 22 all around. JGR is not getting a sponsor on there car for an unproven up and comer. but they can put that unproven up and comer in a car for a few races because the cup guys are running races for the same sponsor. dale Jr runs races for his company because thats what it took to get a sponsor on board for the other guys to run a season. It still cost alot of money to run those races on all these bud speedways, if NASCAR could lower the cost in trucks and xfinity then maybe they could open the door to more companies being able to sponsor races and in turn would allow more you guys a shot

  6. I would really hate to be beat out of My first Xfinity win by a cup driver who found it necessary to enter a illegal car to beat the kids.

    1. Hamlin is responsible for the measurements of the splitter? That is a new one.

      And if you think JGR did it on purpose, you have not been in this sport long enough to know the character of that organization. An employee? Perhaps. But not the organization.

  7. “I would really hate to be beat out of My first Xfinity win by a cup driver who found it necessary to enter a illegal car to beat the kids.”

    They should be used to it by now, it happens every week.

  8. Simple, Cup drivers are scored until the white flag, then weekly teams running for the championship would get the wins.

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