With Kyle Larson’s win at Pocono Raceway today in the Pocono ARCA 200 it was another example of a NASCAR Sprint Cup regular jumping into a “lesser” series and dominating for the win.
Larson is young and likable, but he’s still a driver with a Cup ride going down to ARCA to race. He explained that his team rather insisted he do so to earn more track time at the Tricky Triangle.
Larson also stated that although he’d get around the track, in his ARCA car he wouldn’t be shifting and in his Cup car he’d have to so it really wasn’t going to help a great deal in preparing for tomorrow’s Pocono 400.
In addition to Larson, John Wes Townley was entered in the ARCA race and earned a podium third place finish. Townley also commented that although any seat time is good for a driver, this experience would not help him in a NASCAR Camping World Truck race when he returns to Pocono in August for both series’ (ARCA and NCWTS) races.
Townley also said the difference between the ARCA cars and the trucks are so vastly different that he doesn’t see any advantage for his truck drive at Pocono later in the summer.
Fans have been vocal about Cup drivers or drivers like Townley who have a truck ride going down a series or two or more to compete against series’ regulars and usually dominating, winning, or at least placing in the race.
The fans complain it isn’t fair to the regular drivers of the respective series the visiting driver is competing and is usually boring for the series’ fans to watch.
But every driver I’ve ever interviewed about the topic disagrees with the fans’ perspective who feel that way.
Larson stated when I asked him directly today that he always enjoyed and still enjoys having visitors come into the series. He said as a Nationwide rookie last season he learned much from the Cup regulars who he competed against throughout the year. And, he continued, that when he runs in Nationwide races this season he continues to learn from many of that series’ regulars!
In the past I put the same question to Nationwide series regular Brendan Gaughan when he was running trucks. He, too, said that he welcomes the Cup guys to compete in those series.
“You’re only as good as your competition. If you can run with the best then you are good. You have to run with the big boys to see if you can beat the big boys.”
Matt Crafton, 2013 NCWTS champion, told me nearly the same thing as Gaughan when asked about Kyle Busch running in the trucks and winning so much a few seasons ago. He thought it was good for the series, the fans, and the drivers.
From second place finisher Mason Mitchell in today’s ARCA race who diced it up with race winner Larson, – and who took the lead away from Larson at one point toward the end of the race – he feels similarly to others mentioned.
“It felt really good to know our team could run in our equipment against this well-funded car driven by a Cup regular.”
In all of the years I’ve been interviewing drivers from all levels and series of racing, the consensus overwhelmingly is that having drivers compete in a “lesser” series is not a problem for the series’ regulars, but, in fact, a welcomed scenario. The drivers feel they learn more, compete better, and work harder to best the visiting driver(s).
Larson said it best when he responded, “The fans should be happy when it happens because they are treated to really good racing.”