Sunday, January 23, 2011

NASCAR mulls over qualifying changes

Changes to the sport are always discussed during the NASCAR offseason. Some ideas have merit, but others should never make it to the racetrack.

This is one such idea.

Last week, NASCAR said it is looking into changing how teams qualify for a race.
Several tracks have already moved Cup qualifying to Saturday before the Nationwide race, but NASCAR also might change how the qualifying order is set. Instead of a random draw each weekend, the order would be set by Friday’s practice speeds. NASCAR said it is still discussing the issue with teams, but this is one that could hurt the competitive balance of the sport each weekend.

As it is now, some teams with fast cars have to start in the middle of the pack because they had an early draw that forced them to qualify in less than ideal track and weather conditions. However, if the order is set by practice times, some teams will really work on qualifying in practice, which could hurt their performance on Sunday.

Teams that did work on long runs during practice would also be punished because they would have to go out early in qualifying. Finally, what about the Saturday morning qualifying sessions? Then a late draw is usually a disadvantage, so the cars with slow practice speeds would get the best conditions to qualify.

Sometimes luck-of-the-draw keeps things fun because anybody has a chance to be put in a position to succeed. If NASCAR wants to continue to try and run the little guy out of the sport, this is one way to help. Part of what makes the Budweiser Shootout fun is that it doesn’t have any qualifying and the starting grid is set entirely by a random draw.

Plus, if a driver gets lucky and happens to put up an unusually fast qualifying time but doesn’t have the car to stay there, such as Patrick Carpantier at New Hampshire in 2008, they fall back by the first pit stop anyway. Does it hurt the quality of the racing? No. If anything, it helps because the drivers with good cars have to work their way through the field and we get to watch comers and goers.

With this proposed new system, the goers would already be gone.


  1. Regarding qualifying.
    Too often we see rain come in and cancel everything, many times after some of the teams have run their qualifying lap. This results in some go or go home teams having spent a considerable amount of money to prepare and get to the track only to load up and go home.
    Instead of having the go or go homers qualify after the 35 locked in cars, why can't NASCAR have them go first? This slight change would allow NASCAR to put the fastest of them in the field. Then if rain does come out before all the 35 locked in cars attempt their runs, they could take the top 35 slots with the fastest go or go home cars behind them.

    Wouldn't this be fair not only to the teams, the race, but also the fans getting to see the fastest cars racing?

    Thanks for shedding some light on this as it has mystified me for quite some time.

    JR in Ohio

  2. Makes too much sense anonymous, that's why Nascar will never do it :-)

  3. Agreed Mayer - if NASCAR makes this rule change then practice is no longer practice its pre-qualifying. Teams really do need the time on the track to test setups esp with all the changes to the cars lately. The well funded teams will just keep spending the money to optimize the quals practice so they end up where they need to be and the GOGH'ers will be toast.

    Love Anonymous' idea of putting the GOGH'ers first...could it be a return of JokersWild to the site?? JR in Ohio...HMMMMMmmmmmm