Saturday, August 11, 2007

Qualifying should be same at all tracks

NASCAR made official Friday something that we already know, but something that it hates to admit. Some races are just more important than others.

Two weeks ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, rain on Friday forced a schedule shuffle that moved qualifying from Saturday morning to that afternoon. It was the right call to make, since it gave everybody at least a fighting chance to make one of the season's most anticipated events. But if the schedule is what it is at one track, that's how it ought to be everywhere.

When it rained Friday at Watkins Glen, NASCAR went right back to its default procedure. Qualifying was canceled, not shuffled around, and the field for Sunday's race was set by the Nextel Cup rule book.

So teams that traveled to Watkins Glen for the opportunity to compete went home without getting that. Fundamentally, that's wrong.

If the schedule is going to be moved around at Indy to give everybody a fair shot of making the Allstate 400, why can't the same thing be done at the Glen?

There was no Busch race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the weekend there, but there was one a few miles away at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Several of the drivers that were in the Nextel Cup race were also in the Busch race that weekend, and when things were moved around it complicated their lives.

Yes, reworking the schedule at the Glen to fit in Cup practice, Cup and Busch qualifying and the Busch race might take some doing. But isn't it worth the effort, or at least wouldn't it be for the teams that went home from the Glen without even getting a chance to qualify?

NASCAR has never done it, of course, but letting only the cars in the go-or-go-home category make runs is a better alternative than what happens when it rains out qualifying.

You could write it right into the rulebook. The eight teams that make it in the abbreviated qualifying start 13th, 18th, 23rd, 28th, 33rd, 38th, 42nd and 43rd in the race. Sure, it's arbitrary, but is it even more arbitrary than letting postmarks and number of entries and things like that determine who races and who doesn't?

Watkins Glen isn't as big a race as Indianapolis. No offense to the fine folks in the Finger Lakes region of New York, but that's a fact. You know it, I know it and NASCAR knows it. But it shouldn't act that way. Every race should be dealt with under the same policies and procedures.
And the guiding principle behind all of those procedures should be to make every possible effort to give everyone a chance to make the race.

22 comments:

Lynn Dozier said...

David,while Nascar "says" that it wants to encourage the smaller teams to participate and even compete, it seems that they do just the opposite when it comes to giving them a fighting chance to even make the race. Again, Nascar is consistantly inconsistant in this regard per your example at Indy. Just the cost of getting to the track, only to go home could spell doom for a lot of small teams

Paul Stagg said...

Making up the rules as you go along has been a NASCAR hallmark of late. It's just one more nail in the coffin, as evidenced by slipping TV ratings and apparent slipping attendance.

When you couple the moving target rulebook with the top 35 qualify rule and the 'Chase', where Kurt Bush is going to have a shot at winning the championship when he's 800 points behind Jeff Gordon, you get exactly what many of us predicted.

Which is more time on Sunday to get stuff done around the house, and more anticipation for football season.

Anonymous said...

David,

Enjoyed the article. If Nascar is so concerned about the amount of time it takes for quals. due to Cup & Busch competing at the same track on a road course and not being able to fit it in, why don't they find the time to lock in the top 35 per points standings and try to find a lttle space in the schedule to at least let the other 14 cars that showed up compete for the last 8 spots in the starting line up? I'm sure they could find an extra hour in there somewhere.

Steve H.

Mitch said...

I am a long time NASCAR fan and some of the later changes in NASCAR proves they care about the big teams and sponsors and their pockets books. After all, no one really is really going to be upset if Jeremy Matfield or Michael Waltrip don't make the field, right?

They first laughed in the faces of the fans when they decided that the snoozefest at California was better than tradition at Darlington and a second date and Texas was much better than a date at Rockingham.

Then when poor Jack Roush missed a race because one of his cars was not fast enough to race, we got the top 35 rule. Let's see, we will let the slowest car at the track make this race and knock the 20 place qualifying car out of the race after all, we have already established that nobody will really be upset if Michael Waltrip does not race this week, right?

Pre-season footbal started this week and the regular season starts in a few weeks. I wander how much the ratings will slip then?

Anonymous said...

At Indy NASCAR did not move qualifying to Saturday. I was set for Saturday at 1000. NASCAR moved it to 530 because they wanted to the guys to have Practice. If they moved qualifying to Saturday this week, what happens the weeks when they can not do this. It should be the same across the board. Why should we change the rules every time someone is not happy with something?

Startech said...

David,

Just one question. With your logic, why was the Dayton race qual canceled??? Is Dayton "not as important"? Yeah, right. The reasons are simple. With Indy vs Dayton, Glen, they didn't have a BUSH RACE AT THE SAME TRACK at the Brickyard...duh.

vroom said...

Perhaps they can create a weekly contingency pan, ie- list 10a on Sat as an alternate qual time if necessary.

Anonymous said...

Qualifying was always set for Saturday at Indy -- they just pushed the time back to allow a practice session beforehand. And that was a safety issue because sending cars out to make qualifying runs on a green track without any practice would have pretty much gauranteed scraping a bunch of them off the wall.

I'm sick of hearing people cry for Nascar to change the rules on the fly just because they like Boris Said and Marcos Ambrose better than they like the guys who got in on points. No changes to the rules should be made mid-season for anything other than a serious and urgent safety reason.

stricklinfan82@aol.com said...

Mr. Poole,

I agree that it would be nice to see NASCAR shuffle the schedules around on Sautrday to fit in qualifying when it's rained out on Friday, but NASCAR has set a precendence that they won't postpone Friday's qualifying session and run it on Saturday. They used to do that all the time in the 80's and 90's but I can't recall them moving qualifying from Friday to Saturday since 2000. It was easy to do back then because they used to have 1st round qualifying on Friday and 2nd round qualifying on Saturday, so when Friday's session was rained out they just moved it to Saturday morning and had one single qualifying session. It was easy to move qualifying from Friday to Saturday back then because they already had qualifying time alloted in the schedule on Saturday mornings, today there is rarely an opening in the schedule on Saturday mornings with Busch or Truck Qualifying (or whatever companion series is at the track), Cup practice, and then the companion race.

Your Indianapolis example is not totally accurate. Friday was only a practice day at Indy, they were never scheduled to qualify on Friday. Qualifying was always scheduled for Saturday, they just moved it back from 10 AM to 5 PM or so. Had the Busch Series been racing at the big track at Indy it would have been a logistics nightmare and they probably would have cancelled Cup qualifying on Saturday. They wouldn't have had time to fit in both Cup practice and qualifying on Saturday if there was Busch qualifying and a Busch race (remember NASCAR usually qualifies the Busch cars the morning of the race), and NASCAR wouldn't qualify (or race for that matter) without practice so they would have to scrap Cup qualifying.

I would like to see Cup use Thursdays as open practice days and then schedule qualifying for 11 AM on Fridays, to maximize the amount of daylight they would have to wait out a rain delay on Friday. When you qualify at 3:00 or 4:00 on a track without lights NASCAR can't wait out a rain delay of more than an hour or two, so qualifying should start as early in the day as possible. If they had qualified the Cup cars at Daytona at 11 AM or Noon they would have had plenty of time to complete the session. Instead they started it so late and so close to the start of the Busch race that they had to pull the plug when it started raining.

stricklinfan82@aol.com said...

I also understand Boris Said's frustration with the top 35 rule but that has nothing to do with the rainout procedure.

In my opinion NASCAR should reward the teams that show up every week when qualifying is rained out. They should start 1-43 based on qualifying attempts, with owner's points used as the tiebreaker.

The current rainout procedure is similar, they do take the top 35 in owner's points but then include last year's winners and former champions before they get to qualifying attempts. I don't believe that Terry Labonte should be granted a starting spot driving a car outside the top 43 in owner's points just because he was the series champion 11 years ago.

I don't know what Boris would like NASCAR to do when there is a rainout. I understand his desire for rescheduling qualifying, but when it's not possible to get qualifying in how does he expect to given a starting spot in the race? Should he get a spot based on practice speeds? Last year's pole at Daytona? His top 10 finish at Infineon? Maybe he would like to see the once-used procedure at Watkins Glen in 2000 come back - top 35 in owner's points, then former champions (Darrell Waltrip), then the last 7 spots based on the random qualifying draw? At Watkins Glen in 2000 a lot of full-time teams like Brett Bodine and Scott Pruett were furious that they missed the race and the part-time teams of Ron Fellows and Todd Bodine made it just because they drew a lower number for the qualifying draw, that's why NASCAR fills nearly the entire field based on the current year's points and qualifying attempts.

I'm sorry Boris, but you're wrong. If qualifying can not possibly be held, YOU SHOULD MISS THE RACE with your part-time road course and restrictor plate only team. You would have outqualified Kenny Wallace, but his #78 team shows every week so he should get better treatment when qualifying is cancelled, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Qualifying at Indy was pushed back because teams had no time to practice.

Like an earlier post above mentioned, NASCAR did that for safety reasons. Qualifying was scheduled for Saturday and it was done on Saturday.

This week was different. Qualifying was scheduled for Friday, but it was rained out. The rulebook clearly states that the lineup goes to owner points, past champions, and attempts if qualfiying does not occur on the same day that it was scheduled for. NASCAR would have done the same thing had it rained on qualifying day at Indy.

I'm not sure why Boris Said expects to get special treatment. NASCAR isn't trying to kill the "little guy" - it is just trying to follow printed rules in the rulebook that everyone has agreed to. If teams do not agree with the rules, they have the opportunity to race elsewhere.

Redvette said...

First, I think the go/go home cars should go first in qualifying. Then, the Top 35 can draw straws for positions, while I mow the lawn, for all I care. The old way wasn't broken and NASCAR didn't need to fix it.

Second, just like a race, I think that if qualifying is more than 50% complete, then those times stand. The Top 35 can blend in and take non-T35 positions from the rear as necessary.

Third, there were only 14 cars left to qual. They could have started that at 7am with plenty of time for all the other events.

Monkeesfan said...

This controversy stems from that some cars went home without a shot at qualifying. Ultimately the only solution is simple-

Start All Entries - no more send-homes. Then we won't have any of this nonsense.

stricklinfan82@aol.com said...

Monkeesfan,

That's a great idea but the problem with that is that most tracks barely fit 43 pit stalls right now. In fact Watkins Glen only has 41 pit stalls, so 4 teams are sharing pits on Sunday. Unless NASCAR goes back to the old truck series rules where no pit stops are allowed during the race (all refueling and tire changes were done during halftime breaks) you have to put a cap on the number of cars because there simply wouldn't be enough room for everyone on pit road.

Redvette said...

Mike Daly, get off the everyone who enters gets in BS. Qualifying, at Cup level, does more, or it used to, than just define positions. It puts the best of the best in the show. Because you can sign an entry form, and attempt to qualify, doesn't mean you've earned the right to race in the Cup series. There has to be a "set limit" to protect the quality of the event.

R. said...

Let the 41 fastest cars qualify. give one past champion's provisional. Before the race on Saturday night or Sunday run a five lap shootout for the last spot. then watch the TV ratings climb!If the #8 or #24 go home, big deal.

Monkeesfan said...

stricklanfan82, for the short term you can make the big multicar teams share pits.

Redvette, get real. Qualifying doesn't put the "best of the best" into the race, because figuratively speaking at least, "best of the best" doesn't exist. Signing an entry form does mean you deserve to race because it means you've made the effort to be able to sign that entry form. Set limits don't protect the quality of the event, they degrade it.

Texan-American said...

Hey, David you could help fuel the fire about who goes and who races. When you put qualifying results in the paper, show the speeds of all drivers, not just "owners points, past champion etc". Then we can see that the fastest 43 aren't really in. As for past champions, forget it. The only provisional should go to the defending race champion if he doesn't make it on speed.

Nascar and the Canadian Curmudgeon said...

To make Nascar move on this obvious trouble area is like moving a mountain or fighting city hall..It has been obvious since the outset that the whole qualifying procedure is a can of worms..despite all the talk from Daytona Beach about protecting the small teams they continue to waffle because of the pressure from the top teams who want the status quo left in place..even making a small change like letting the no top35ers qualify together is being "think tanked" to death even though it's an easy thing to institute..They waffled in the Busch series while Roush and RCR etc. steamrollered that series to the point that they have trouble filling the fields..the same will happen in Cup..

Monkeesfan said...

canadian curmudgeon nails it - NASCAR has to be weened off its addiction to the big teams in order to run the sport properly.

JW said...

I guess no one watched SPEED channel after the qualifying was rained out. Maybe an hour after, there was a race at The Glen with Daytona Prototype cars. I honestly don't know if it was live or not, but it was at The Glen. So if it was, it would be hard to change stuff around. They might have had some other kind of race on Saturday besides Busch. I don't understand NASCAR anymore either; I happen to think it is unfair for Boris and all those guys; think about the time and money they put into the races...its like a Busch regular racing for Nextel Cup for no reason and not get in and then he loses a lot of money. I think they should change their way with who gets in and who doesn't when it rains. Maybe starting with say 33 or 34 in owners points, they could draw names or something...or just qualify on XBOX 360. Denny Hamlin uses video games to help him at certain tracks. Thats a new sponsor for someone right there; win- win- situation!

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