With Parker Kligerman, who has driven the #96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing in all 14 of their appearances so far in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, set to fulfill his duties as a NASCAR analyst and a pit reporter for NBC Sports Network for this Sundayâs season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Ford EcoBoost 400, Drew Herring is set to drive in his place.
In fact, this 267-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Homestead-Miami Speedway oval in Homestead, Florida is set to mark Herringâs Cup Series debut.
It also happens to be the championship-deciding Championship 4, featuring former champions Martin Truex and Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racingâs Kevin Harvick along with Joe Gibbs Racingâs Denny Hamlin.
This sets up quite an interesting scenario, and for all the wrong reasons, many of which are obvious.
With all due respect to Herring, this should not be the case in the Championship 4. Period. Thereâs no other logical way to put it bluntly. It probably shouldnât be the case at any point in the playoffs, either â just like Cup Series drivers arenât allowed to compete in Xfinity Series or Truck Series playoff races.
NASCAR has placed numerous restrictions on Cup Series drivers from competing in Xfinity Series and Truck Series races, and they have done so for several years.
In fact, next year, the limits are set to be even stricter; Cup Series drivers with three or more seasons of full-time experience in the Cup Series will be permitted to compete in as many as five Xfinity Series races and five Truck Series races.
But never mind the fact that a driver who has competed in just 23 Xfinity Series and Truck Series races over seven years, including none in the last almost three seasons, is set to make his Cup Series debut in a race where four drivers are battling for the championship.
Of course, the reasoning behind restricting Cup Series drivers from competing in a ton of Xfinity Series and Truck Series races is far different, but nevertheless, limiting Cup Series driver participation in these two lower series actually makes far less sense than allowing a guy with no experience whatsoever to come drive on the same track with four championship hopefuls.
Naturally, there are several backmarker cars that are going to be in the field anyway, likely going laps down not long after the green flag is waved. And, as you might have been able to predict, more than one of these drivers have already caused their share of controversy throughout the playoffs.
Now put a driver with zero experience behind the wheel of one of them in a pressure-packed championship race. Thatâs just asking for trouble whilst blatantly and conveniently ignoring the fact that this just might not be the best idea.
I donât fault Gaunt Brothers Racing one bit for their decision. They have a car set to compete in the race, Kligerman canât drive it, and they went out and found the driver who they believe will best fit their needs in this particular situation. If I were them, Iâd do the same thing, perhaps even with Herring if I lined up all the options and felt that he was the best one for this race.
As for NASCAR, however, thatâs another story. They have the power to restrict certain aspects of competition, as outlined above in just one particular situation.
This would be an appropriate use of said power for the sake of everybody involved.
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This isnât a little league baseball draft where everyone is going to be picked. Itâs the Championship 4 of the NASCAR Cup Series. Would you have a first-time referee calling the Super Bowl? A total of 35 races over the course of nine months featuring several dozen of the best drivers in the world led up to this championship decider. These races, which included nine playoff races, set the stage for this season finale.
This is not the time for a driver with zero experience to make his debut. Hopefully NASCAR will realize that moving forward, although itâs a little late now for this particular instance and wouldnât be fair for Gaunt Brothers Racing or Drew Herring.
Anybody can make mistakes, but the odds of a recently eliminated playoff driver such as reigning champion Joey Logano or rising star Chase Elliott making a mistake in a race that barely means anything to them donât come close to the odds of a driving making his debut behind the wheel of a 35th to 40th place car making one while trying to prove he belongs in NASCAR at a crucial point in the championship decider.