Friday, March 09, 2007

NASCAR's process needs inspection

The devil, as they say, is in the detail.

You wouldn’t expect, for example, there to be much of an issue when it comes to how cars are inspected before a NASCAR race – at least in terms of who goes where in the inspection line.
But early in this Nextel Cup season, that has emerged as a very big deal.

At California Speedway two weeks ago, there were 51 cars attempting to make the 43-car field. That meant eight teams went home early, so qualifying was a big deal for that race.

But before practice that Friday, inspections took so long that several of the guys who needed to race their way into the field on speed didn’t have an opportunity for their cars to pass through the inspection line even once before practice began.

In a 90-minute practice session, some teams were as much as an hour late in getting on track – through absolutely no fault of their own. And that’s wrong.

NASCAR has to put itself in position to give every team entered in an event at least one chance to clear inspection before any car goes on the track. Whether that means setting up two inspection lines and adding more staff or some other option, it’s on NASCAR to have the personnel present to give everyone a fair shot.

Now if a team’s car gets kicked out of line for having something wrong, that’s different. But if I’ve got a car that’s ready for inspection at the proper time and that has everything on it that is in compliance with the rules, there’s no way I should be penalized by losing practice time because of a backlog in NASCAR’s inspection process.

Teams go through inspection in the order of their standing in the points, and some might argue that’s backward. The top 35 already have the advantage of having a guaranteed starting slot, why give them the advantage of having the best chance at getting a full practice in, too? Why not invert the field and inspect the guys at the low end of the totem pole first? Or, even, have a lottery to determine inspection order the same way they do now to select qualifying order?

Those ideas offer interesting debate topics, but the point is that it should not matter what order the cars are inspected in. There shouldn’t be any advantage, one way or another. If you go from first to last, last to first or at random, the only fair way to do it at all is to have things set up such that everybody gets a fair shot at being on the track the same amount of time for practice sessions.

As long as a team shows up on time to present its car for inspection and as long as that car is in compliance with the rules, it should never miss a minute of on-track time because NASCAR can’t get it inspected before it’s time to start practice.


Anonymous said...

I think you are dead spot on. Been needed for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I think nascar needs to drop the "top 35" bullcrap...the top 43 based on speed make the show! Agree, that with money that the France Family Mafia make hand over fist...ALL teams need their Full amount of practice! #5

Monkeesfan said...

This is what happens when you try to crunch into three days what is supposed to be done in four. Go back to Thursday AM track opens, inspect and qualify off the truck, then use Friday and Saturday for practices and undercard races, then Sunday 1PM Winston Cup.

anonymous, dropping the top-35 rule won't speed anything up. Start all entries, because the sport can't keep stiffarming teams anymore.

Bruce E Simmons said...

Monkeesfan has a great point about bringing back Thursdays, even though they banished Thursdays for the smaller teams to save money, yet the smaller teams are getting hurt by this process.

Lottery draws, top 35, or even, when they draw for qualifying, have them draw for a practice slot also.

Either way you put it, I agree that it's on NASCAR and they should help the "parity" by providing additional tech staff for the inspections.

Mike said...

Mokeesfan-Sarcasm is hard to pick up in text, are you really serious about starting 50+ cars? Cars would barely start on the lead lap at Martinsville or Bristol.

David-I agree with you, the playing field should be level or closer to it. The cars trying to qualify need some concessions to make it worth their while. Have you heard any opinions on the "claw"? Will that speed up the process at all?

Anonymous said...

You are dead one here, last is last to park the transporters, be under tents instead of a garage stall or have to walk an eternity. It should go backwards for inspection itself, as to at least allow the guys a shot to be on track and work the car from that angle

It not the France Family Mafia its the Brian ,Helton and freaking Gary Nelson Mafia

Anonymous said...

YES Monkee's fan is serious about starting 50 cars...he's not right #5

Anonymous said...

Its simple, have 2 practice sessions, while one half is out practicing the other half is finishing up with their inspection.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR is so much about parity, yet they cannot practice what they are (incessantly) preaching? They rail about how they are trying to make a level playing field for the smaller teams, then backstab them with shenanigans like this. I agree that the lottery is probably the best way, in addition to earlier inspection starts.

Anonymous said...

If you think it's bad now, wait until Martinsville. At Bristol, they're opening up a day early for COT inspection...but not the next week. The only way they're going to come close to getting done is a second inspection line, but they only have one inspection grid. Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

The Top 35 rule was implemented in 2005. Back then teams that were outside of the top 35 were also in the same bad spot. It has taken two years for anybody to notice let alone speak out about this unfair situation. It's not like nobody knew. I would've been more impressed if reporters would have hopped on this and written about it in 2005.

Anonymous said...

Every car/driver should be required to qualify to be entered in every race. Stop the favoratism with the top 35 being given a pass. If NASCAR thinks they have to show a degree to favorite teams/drivers/owners let the list be limited to 10 and the other 33 make the race on qualifying speeds.

Next, get rid of the so called "Stock Cars" of today and make the templates fit what ever us poor devils on the street have to drive. Todays street versions are aerodynamic enough to create good racing without having to create these things that do not even resemble "Stock Cars".

Monies should be paid for the order of finish, not for any favorite driver or team according to NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just timestamp the exit from inspection and give them 2 hrs on the clock? As a car's 2 hrs approaches call them off the track. Nobody gets more than 2 hrs and nobody gets less.

Anonymous said...

Just another example of NASCAR as a club, and not a true sport. The debacle over the track and tires in LV, the inspection process, and whatever else the Family wishes to do all hinder NASCAR's evolution towards respectablity. Get an independent governing body or commisioner - or it's just "entertainment" as Humpy said.

Anonymous said...

It should be named exactly what it is ...........IROC

TJ Hannink said...

How 'bout this?

Have one timed practice for everyone and one unlimited practice session for those not in the top 35.

If you were in the top 35, you could get into the unlimited practice session, but then you would have to qualify on time.

Jays Prime Cuts said...

trully Dave you need a break from the blog,paper,thats racin ands sirius. Im a huge NASCAR fan but pass this around the media center to save all those souls.
Your eyes trully need a break.

Anonymous said...

NOTE: I wrote this a couple months ago after the California race qualifying was rained out in Febuary of 2008!

I Agree! Used to in the late 90's I remember when NASCAR Winston Cup used to several times qualify and race on the same day. It happened at Richmond 2 or 3 times I recall and if qualifying was stopped due to rain, they would finish it the next day. Seeing who qualifiers and goes home are more exciting to me than the actual race at some places such as both plate races and the road courses. Anytime those races are set by points, it kills the whole weekend to see drivers like Boris Said, Scott Pruitt, and Ron Fellows to go home. I get tired of seeing the same "Queer Jeff Gordon's & Jimmie Johnson's", ROUSH & The same Gibbs cars run up front all the time. I look forward to these races for that reason. Over the past year, I have heard people fuss and complain about The Top 35 Rule and all of Y'all on keep sending out articles about how everyone hates it and how the fans don't like Brain & John's way of doing things and how we need someone else to run this sport who actually gives a damn about it as a whole and not money. Face it, Brain France & John Darby aren't going to listen to any of us. I wish some of Y'all would on here start writing articles on how the fans should decide who gets to run NASCAR. I can't stand them and wish they never existed and that there was someway that we could get rid of those Sorry Ass Snout Pretty Boys. They only care how they can make money and trying to make NASCAR bigger by going to these big market cities that have cookie cutter tracks that provide us with boring sucky ass racing that nobody wants. They don't care about the sport in general at all. Any of the Diehard fans out there like me who have been around the sport a long time hates Brain's way of doing things, I'll stop but lets get rid of him somehow! I understand anyone who dared to post a article out there about such a subject dogging Brain France would be 'trending in high water' im sure but there would be so much fan support I think it would be worth it and something might actually get done. Darrell Waltrip would be a perfect example of who would be good to run NASCAR. I don't know if I can ever see him doing that but I think you see my point of view, Anyways, back to qualifying! Why can we not go back to the 40 Fastest Qualifiers get in and the 41-43 are the next 3 point positions that didn't qualify. At least the top 38 qualifiers and maybe 5 points positions at the rear would be ok to but I say 40 fastest get in and no provisionals, no past champions provisional, just fastest 40 and Go Racing! I'm a big fan of The Wood brothers but I disagree with how them "stealing" one of the precious 7 spots that's left on Fridays. How are young drivers suppose to get going or new teams come along in this sport? If The Woods can't keep going in this sport, so be it but if they would go back to the fastest 40 cars making the race, The Woods would be fine I think. With only 6 or 7 spots available is redicious! One perfect example is that #84 Red Bull Team with AJ. AJ Allemdinger. AJ's team started performing very well the last 10 or 11 races last season when they actually made the field. This year, if qualifying had been like it used to be, he would have made Daytona which would have put him in at California and Las Vegas, he was 29th or 31st after qualifying but missed the show. He never did qualify that good last season but once the race started, he had some very good runs but only 3 of them resulted in the finish. My point is that he is a young man with alot of talent and could be a superstar in out sport but because NASCAR is not listening to its fans and would rather to put Kyle Petty in these first 5 races so he could go out there qualify 47th and ride around all day in 43rd finishing ahead of whoever wrecks or dropped out. AJ's team has had to remove him from the seat and when he does come back in another race or two if he can't go out there and qualify in the top 25 or 30 (which usually is about the cutoff for the make it or go homers), he'll properly go back to open wheel racing. I hate to pick on Kyle Petty but I just used him as an example for several other drivers out there who do the same thing. Don't get me wrong, I like Kyle and I wish Kyle would start running better like he used to when I first got into watching NASCAR in 1993. Last year after the Coca-Cola 600 when Kyle finished 3rd, I was jumping up in my living room for him but Richard needs to wake up and smell the roses and put someone else in the car if he is serious on keeping two Petty cars in the field each week. I know the 45 car really wasn't that slow at Bristol where he was already 2 laps down by the lap 50 caution. Bristol was also one of Kyle's best tracks but enough on Kyle. I'm just sick of logging on and reading on how qualifying was rained out or how Boris Said misses another race due to weather because I look forward to those races where we can actually not have to watch the same Roush, Hendrick, or Gibbs drivers constantly run up front. If a Kevin Lepage driving for I think his name is John Carter who runs cars 34 and 37 make the field at Talladega while a Gibbs driver or Hendrick drivers misses it, tough luck! That's racing!