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Motorsports 101 Debate: What Should NASCAR’s Qualifying Procedure Be?

October 30th, 2013 at 11:00 AM
By Mark Eddinger
NASCAR has already announced that changes will be made to the qualifying procedure in 2014 but have not laid out exactly what the specifics are yet even though some hints and rumors have been reported. Motorsports 101 debates what qualifying procedure NASCAR should implement.
Keep It The Same – By Clayton Caldwell
Some of the things being entertained for the new qualifying procedures are using a forty to sixty minute pack drafting to determine qualifying on the restrictor plate tracks and having multiple cars on the track at one time on the mile and a half tracks. Both ideas I do not like. 
Let’s start with the pack drafting at Daytona and Talladega. Think of the first 400 miles of a restrictor plate race. Actually don’t think about that. You’d be asleep by the end of this paragraph. Now add about 125 miles to it and congratulations you would get pack qualifying at the restrictor plate tracks. No big teams would want to risk their cars in a session where they are not getting paid. Jimmie Johnson and his team would probably take solo runs as there is no way that the #48 team would miss the race because of where he would be in points. Johnson would just make single car runs as the smaller teams try and scramble for the fastest laps and cause accidents with drivers who are not as good or experienced.

That would lead to bad things and NASCAR would look silly after that. They would be back to solo car runs at the restrictor plate tracks in three years. Mark my words. I would be stunned if there would be more than 43 cars coming to the plate tracks if that’s how they qualified. Teams would just stay home and not take the chance of losing a car. 
The other scenario that NASCAR is thinking about is to have multiple cars qualify at all but the short tracks in order to “make qualifying more interesting for the fans on television.” While the idea may seem attractive to some fans, there are a bunch of fans that do not like that. 
For example the fans of drivers who are with small teams and organizations like qualifying because it’s their time in the spotlight. That will most likely be gone if they use multiple cars in qualifying. Let’s say you’re a JJ Yeley fan and he is on the track with Danica Patrick. There is no doubt in my mind or anyones that has watch the television coverage in 2013 that Danica would get all the TV time for that “group” of qualifying. That would not be fun for a fan nor would it make it “more interesting to watch.” 
Then you also have to consider the sponsors who pay money to be on cars for qualifying only to not be shown as much for the simple fact that they drew with a big named driver that most of the fans care about. 
All in all, qualifying is not the problem. I think most fans enjoy the way qualifying is done because it makes sense. If the changes they are talking about happen you can bet that they will be back to the normal way in three years.
Heat Races or Championship Points – By Mark Eddinger
Qualifying is a part of the NASCAR weekend that is lacking entertainment value right now and that is a problem. Attendance is down at the track on race day so why not try something that might draw more fans over the course of the whole weekend? A new qualifying procedure could do that.
The most radical of ideas would be to run heat races to set the field on a weekly basis. This would be awesome and entertaining for sure. But is that what NASCAR will go with right now?
Group qualifying works nicely on the road courses because the tracks are long and qualifying takes a lot of time when running one car at a time for two laps. That doesn't mean it is the answer for the other tracks though. Group qualifying at an oval doesn't really seem to make sense. Why have multiple cars on the track where a draft could help someone out or someone could get cut off on a good lap. Wouldn't it just make sense to have seven or eight cars on the track in an actual heat race then?
Having a drafting qualifying session on the restrictor plate tracks is the same. If NASCAR is going to allow packs, which in qualifying would turn into just tandem drafting, then why not just have heat races. The Twin Qualifying races at Daytona every February that set the lineup for the Daytona 500 are always entertaining. Why not just do that at the other three restrictor plate races. They don't have to be as long as for the Daytona 500 so maybe just 50 miles and have three heats which would be about 14-16 cars in each heat.
Some other ideas that should be implemented would be to make championship points available in qualifying. That way NASCAR could keep single cars runs and teams would need to focus on qualifying since it would play directly into the championship battle and making the Chase in the Cup Series. Give five points for the pole, three for being in the second to fifth positions, and one point for the sixth through tenth positions. That sure would make single car runs more exciting to watch.
If the Sprint Cup Series (43), Nationwide Series (40), and Camping World Truck Series (36) would actually have more than the amount of cars that make the race show up on a weekly basis then qualifying would be semi-entertaining still but the fact is that in 2013 that has not been the case. Most of the time every team that shows up is making the race which is making qualifying meaningless to even have besides setting track position for the very start of a long race.
Put championship points on the line and if not that then heat races are the real answer for NASCAR if they want to make qualifying a better show for fans.

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Tags: Camping World Truck Series, Clayton Caldwell, Mark Eddinger, Motorsports, NASCAR, Sprint Cup Series

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