Most NASCAR races include a standard 40-car field, but nearly a fourth of the cars that enter a Cup Series race don’t stand much of a chance of winning.
Yet each year, we see 40 cars in nearly every race, with the same handful of drivers finishing near the back. It’s good for drivers from smaller teams to get chances to compete at the highest level, and at certain races — like Daytona or Talladega — those teams can compete and get some exposure.
But often times they’re out competing simply not to finish last, and they can interfere with drivers who are actually competing for a win. Imagine how frustrating it would be if a driver in 39th place caused a caution flag late in a race that impacted the result. It’s not ideal, but NASCAR could have a few races this year where the field is a bit smaller.
A recent roundtable discussion on Motorsport discussed how there were a few races last year that didn’t include a full field, and there are a few smaller teams like BK Racing who might not compete in the Cup Series in 2018 for financial reasons.
A condensed field would be a major positive for the quality of racing in the Cup Series. Some analysts have suggest 35 or 36 cars for each race, and that would be a good start. A 35-car field would be much more preferable to 40, and they could even go as low as 32 or 30 and improve on the quality of racing.
Smaller fields would mean a more competitive field. There’s no need for fillers at every race. Sure, it looks great to see 40 cars on the track to start the race. But it doesn’t take long for the top drivers and teams to distance themselves, and often it doesn’t even take half the race before some smaller teams to be eliminated from contention.
It would be a bold move for NASCAR to shorten the field, and it might not ever happen. But the sport would see more quality races with a condensed field, and perhaps executives will notice the enhanced product when there aren’t as many cars on the track at certain races this season.