NASCAR has created a very interesting qualifying system which will be in place for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, along with the Nationwide and Camping World Trucks. Group knockout qualifying will take place in all three of NASCAR's top divisions and it will spark interest throughout the season. Many people wonder if this group qualifying session will lead to NASCAR moving eventually towards heat races to determine the starting field for a race.
Heat races are standard procedure for many short tracks across the United States. Heat races make drivers have to race to get into the field and after all that's what the drivers are here to do right? Race! While the idea has been kicked around by NASCAR fans for some time now I don't see NASCAR having heat races as a good idea for the sport. There are a few reasons why I feel this way.
One of the main reasons I feel that NASCAR will not go to heat races in the near future is simple. Money. I am not saying that NASCAR does not have the money to run these races under the NASCAR umbrella because I think in the long run NASCAR has the money to do virtually whatever they please. The thing I have a problem with is that NASCAR would have to create a purse for these teams to race for.
I know most short tracks across the country do not have purses for their heat races and the reward of making the race is a guaranteed paycheck. However, the cost it takes to run a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is substantial. These are not just some guys trying to fulfill a dream of trying to become a racecar driver and doing it as a hobby. These are multimillion dollar companies who pay members of their teams a ton of money to build racecars and build them well.
While the heat races may not hurt the Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing's of the world the field could potentially shrink if some of these teams do not make the race and if some of these teams have accidents in the heat races trying to make the race.
I remember the excitement that the heat race prior to the truck race at Eldora brought to NASCAR. It was really entertaining to watch but there was no risk to tearing up those trucks because teams had a year to fix the trucks and it was an event that was ran just one time throughout the season. That's why we've seen the Norm Benning's of the world going all out to make the race, because they had nothing to lose. Many teams chose to not even participate in the event due to the cost of making the truck and the fear of going home with nothing.
While heat races would create excitement I think it would be a difficult thing for a lot of the smaller teams. Fields would be shorter and races would need to be shorter. Keeping fans at the racetrack for an entire weekend is one of the goals NASCAR is trying to accomplish by creating this qualifying format that they are using in 2014. Fans could potentially buy tickets for the entire weekend and that would be something NASCAR would love. I find it difficult to keep fans attention for a 500 mile race after watching heat races all day Saturday.
Not only that even for the teams that made the race the money of running heat races and 500 miles on Sunday would add up significantly and that's not including all the practice time these teams have on race weekend. It just seems like a lot of wasted money for heat races and I believe the premier event would have to be chopped down significantly.
With that being said I do think that part of the reason NASCAR has moved to group qualifying is the fact that they are thinking about moving towards heat races in NASCAR and this is like sticking your toe in the water to see if you want to fully commit yourself or not. If all seems to be going well they may try out some heat races in both the Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series before moving it full-time to Cup.
Yet, while the qualifying session is an improvement for the sport there are still a lot of unknowns on how this system will work and if it's the right system to determine the starting field. If it is heat races look to be in the near future, but if there are a lot of tweaks that need to be made I believe heat races will stay in our wants and desires.
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