RPW Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS JR. / RPW – LAS VEGAS NV – At local short tracks across America the idea of placing a ‘bounty’ on a driver has long been part of the sport. However, much like match racing, placing a bounty on a driver in the top tiers has faded away as a part of the past. Until now.
Kyle Busch has been, without a doubt, an unbeatable force in the NASCAR Truck Series for as long as most can remember. It seems every time ‘Rowdy’ straps into his No. 51 the rest of the Truck Series regulars are fighting for second place. That’s something another one of his weekly NASCAR Cup Series and former Truck Series Champion Kevin Harvick has noticed, and he doesn’t seem to care for it.
After winning Friday night’s truck race at Las Vegas, it seemed like just another win to notch into the belt of Kyle Busch’s victories. However, Harvick issued a challenge to the rest of the Cup Series. Get in a truck and beat Kyle.
The prize for doing so? $50,000 of Harvick’s own money. A Bounty.
Bounties have long been used in short track racing to motivate competitors to keep working when one driver is dominating a season. Keep trying and if you succeed, there’s a bonus.
How does this affect things in the Truck Series? For one, fans may have more opportunities this season to see their favorite Sunday competitors running another race on the weekend. On the other hand, it also leaves open the possibility that yet another spot in the field is given to someone not competing on a full time basis for the series championship. More times than not however, drivers in the lower tier series seem to relish the opportunity to compete with drivers from the Cup Series.
Learning from those who are successful in your profession is how one learns to be better. To pay attention to the finer details of the task at hand and how to further yourself in your chosen field. That’s no different in Motorsports. In fact, it may very well be one of the best examples.
Cup Series drivers ‘dropping down’ a series has long been part of NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt, Ken Schrader, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Harry Gant, Jimmy Spencer… The list goes on and on of Cup drivers who have run the Saturday race along with the one on Sunday.
Mark Martin owned the Xfinity Series A.K.A. Busch Grand National Series during the early to mid 90’s. It helped drivers like Steve Grissom, David Green, Bobby LaBonte, Joe Nemechek, Robert Pressley and more learn how to run a longer distance event, how to plan pit strategy over the course of a race, how to pay attention to the lines one chooses to run at any given track.
The only difference between that era and now? No one ever placed a bounty on Martin’s head.
Kyle Busch is the man who surpassed Martin’s record setting numbers in the Xfinity Series. He also holds multiple records with his 57 victories in a truck.
Busch’s dominance of the Truck Series when he is allowed to compete is something unparalleled in the series’ history. The lack of competition able to mount a challenge to Busch leaves many who spectate at home and at the track wondering, “Why?”
Why drop down to run against far less experienced racers? Why enter a race you pretty much are guaranteed to not just win, but dominate? Why?
The answer is simple but also hard for some to swallow and Aerosmith said it best in the song “Dream On.” ‘Sometimes you gotta lose to know how to win.’
If you think a bounty is going to stop Kyle Busch from competing and most likely dominating every truck race, Dream on because Kyle isn’t going away and it will only serve as a way for future stars to get a feel for what they’ll be up against when they move to the top level of NASCAR. However, it will be fun to watch others from the Cup Series join him in the trucks for a shot at an extra 50 grand.
Fans may complain about not seeing Truck regulars win and that’s an understandable complaint from the spectator’s point of view. It’s hard to justify Cup drivers in lower sereis when NFL players don’t sign up for the occasional XFL game in their off season, or MLB players decide to participate in a few farm club games just for the sake of fun during baseball season. You’re either in one or the other.
However, with all the things NASCAR has done to turn the sport into something more palatable for ‘stick and ball’ fans let’s leave this one to be something distinct to racing.
The ability to see future stars and future legends compete against one another, arguably while both in their prime is something fans need to start appreciating. That doesn’t happen in other sports.
The bounty placed on Kyle Busch this season by Kevin Harvick may become the single most interesting aspect of any race on a given weekend in the 2020 season. The possibilities are truly endless in what this could bring to the sport. More bounties, more competition, more excitement and more attention paid to the sport in a very difficult time for racing in general are all positives that should be embraced.