NASCAR, Nationwide teams set big meet

NASCAR is holding a meeting with Nationwide Series owners next Tuesday to discuss a variety of issues for 2011.

While NASCAR has taken an informal poll of owners and principals in the Nationwide garage to gauge the sentiment of competing against Cup drivers in the feeder tour, series director Joe Balash says, “We’ll discuss everything we have on the table” at an off-site location.

Some current Nationwide owners are delaying next season’s rosters until NASCAR solidifies its rules. With a new car for 2011, rising costs and a shrinking pool of sponsors, full-time owners have a difficult time competing against Sprint Cup regulars and are looking for relief.

Brad Keselowski, who races full time on the Cup tour, currently leads the NNS point standings. The only Nationwide-only driver to win one of the 29 races this season is Keselowski’s teammate, Justin Allgaier, at Bristol in March. At fourth in the standings, Allgaier, 24, is also the top non-Cup racer in points. Unfortunately, Allgaier is currently without a ride for 2011 as Penske Racing struggles to find sponsorship for its second NNS team.

Several scenarios have been proposed, including not allowing drivers in the top 35 in the Cup point standings to compete under the same point structure as the Nationwide-only teams. That would carry over to the next season for the first five races of the year, which are based on this season’s final top 35. Under that system a driver such as Elliott Sadler, who is expected to drive for Kevin Harvick Inc., full time in 2011, would not be eligible for Nationwide-specific points until the tour rolls into Texas Motor Speedway on April 8.

Another concept being kicked around is limiting Cup drivers participating in NNS to just one practice session for that race. With the new NNS car going into full effect in 2011 — and no additional testing expected other than extra practice at Daytona during Speedweeks in February — Nationwide regulars would have a better opportunity to get up to speed.

“We’ll analyze points, no points, car rules, closed-top fuel systems and more,” Balash said. “Our thoughts are to position the Nationwide car so it drives and feels like a Nationwide car where one Nationwide shop is competing against another Nationwide shop. We can accomplish that by eliminating the rear sway bar, to save money with tapered spacers and new gear rules.

“The key is to make the cars safer, eliminate additional costs and make our series unique on the racetrack.”

NASCAR will have the final test for its new series car this coming Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway before the regular racing activities begin on Thursday.