Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday April 5, 2012
The NASCAR rulebook is a document that seemingly grows every year. From humble beginnings as a pamphlet handed out to teams at the beginning of every season, it’s evolved into a decent-size book that is still only handed out to teams every season. The latter part of that causes some consternation among fans and media, because keeping the rules guarded like Fort Knox isn’t exactly transparency at its finest. But one rule is crystal clear to race teams, fans, parking attendants, and anyone else who has paid even casual observance over the last several years.
The top 35 teams in owners points are locked into the next race.
At the beginning of the season, when anything can happen (like five-time champion Jimmie Johnson finishing 42nd in the Daytona 500), NASCAR uses the previous season’s owner standings, giving teams time to rectify mistakes (Johnson was ninth in owner standings by the fifth race of the year) and let the teams on the bubble establish themselves. Then, after race five, it’s every team for itself.
Thanks to a pair of incidents at Martinsville, the rule got a lot of scrutiny this week. First, The No 37 team of Tony Raines had its qualifying time thrown out after the car was too low in post-qualifying inspection. Because the team was not in the top 35, Raines didn’t race, and his spot in the race went to J.J. Yeley, the fastest of the drivers to miss making the field. That seems reasonable, but the waters are muddied by the fact that when Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 had the same infraction at Daytona and its time thrown out, Bowyer simply had to start in the back of his Gatorade Duel race and was guaranteed a start in the Great American Race.
The other incident, David Reutimann’s late-race attempt to coast around for just a couple of laps-Reutimann later admitted he’d done it in an attempt to make the laps necessary to gain a finishing position and the one point he needed to keep the No. 10 in the top 35-has been the main topic of conversation all week. Lots of people would like to make Reutimann into a scapegoat for the melee that ensued on the restart, but that one point could mean the difference for his team between racing at Texas next week and watching on TV. With the added pressure of keeping the car in the top 35 because it would mean that rookie driver Danica Patrick also would not have to qualify on speed for her next race, where people should be focusing is the rule that made those extra laps so crucial for Reutimann.
According to an unscientific poll on “The Frontstretch’s Facebook page,”:https://www.facebook.com/Frontstretch most race fans would like to see the rule go by the wayside. 81% of those who responded were in favor of scrapping the rule altogether. That’s the number of fans that NASCAR claims said they didn’t like the two-car draft, and the sanctioning body immediately tried to break the duos up. But don’t hold your breath, the same number said on a NASCAR.com poll that they wanted to get rid of the Chase format, and that’s not going anywhere. Both the Chase and the top 35 rule were products of NASCAR’s brain trust, and as such, a reversal would require an admission of a mistake on the part of the sanctioning body, which so far hasn’t admitted one yet.
And there are a couple of compelling reasons to keep the rule in place. As 9.5% of voters on our poll pointed out, keeping the rule is important to them because it’s expensive to go to a race, and there would be a lot of very disappointed and quite possibly irate race fans if they showed up at the race track to find that a popular face wouldn’t be in the field. Love him or not, just imagine the fan reaction at the track if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. missed a race. Or if Tony Stewart didn’t get the chance to defend his title because of a failure to qualify for a race. Those are very real concerns. While it’s true that every driver on the entry list has fans who support him, it’s also true that some very big names dominate the fan base, and by default, ticket sales. If you think there are empty seats on Sunday, imagine what it might look like if someone like Earnhardt didn’t make the race. Some of those fans, even if they bought expensive tickets, might not make the trek to the track on Sunday if their favorite wasn’t racing. In addition, how many would elect not to watch the race on television, causing ratings to plummet?
Not only would the fans be left with a sour taste if a top driver wasn’t around on Sunday, but the sponsors would be too. Another 9.5% of voters said that the rule needs to be kept in place because the sport needs sponsors to function. Like it or not, one reason sponsors choose to put their name on the cars of top drivers is because they expect to be in the field and prominently featured on the TV broadcast. They don’t put out $15-20 million to have airtime committed to them for missing the race. While you could argue that if the rule wasn’t in place, it might be easier for the smaller teams to find sponsor dollars, the big money is going to be in the big teams…and they pay to play, not to sit on the bench. The sport is in a place where it can’t afford to have sponsors walk away, and the folks in Daytona Beach understand that particular reality.
But even with two very strong arguments for keeping the rule, there’s that overwhelming 84% who said it needs to go. Not a single voter was in favor of modifying the rule to fewer drivers (the poll option was to guarantee a spot only to the top 10 in points plus the defending series champion); it was all or nothing for either keeping the rule or pitching it out with the dishwater.
Most voters (67%) said that if the Sprint Cup Series went back to two rounds of qualifying the way they used to do, the top 35 rule could be thrown out without much danger of a big star missing the race. For those who don’t remember, it worked like this: On Friday, all entrants would make a qualifying run, and the top 25 would be locked into those positions. The rest of the field had a difficult choice to make: either stand on the time from the first round or throw the time away and make another run on Saturday after a practice session. Once you decided to re-qualify, the original time was erased, meaning that if you chose to make another attempt and crashed, or were too slow, you were in danger of missing the field. You also couldn’t bump the top 25 from the previous day from those spots no matter how fast you were on the second run.
There was still a safety net in the form of five provisional spots based on points. First, the most recent past champion not otherwise in the field was given the 43rd spot, the same as they are now, and the last four sports, 39th-42nd, were given to drivers not in the field already based on their owner point standings. If there was no past champion, the last spot went to whomever was next in points. The system worked well, but went by the wayside in the late 1990’s amid complaints of an unfairness because the teams who had locked in on time had extra practice time in race trim. (Which could easily be alleviated by allowing only the teams who elected to re-qualify the opportunity to run in that practice.) The top 35 rule came about a few years later as entries dwindled, allowing a few teams to overuse the provisional system and as sponsor pressure mounted.
Could such a system be viable again after over a decade? Well, yes. It would give a couple of safety nets to a championship contender or fan favorite if they missed the setup or had a bad lap or a spin. While that does still mean that a slower lap could make it in the race over a faster one, it would eliminate the two larger problems of the inconsistent application of inspection rules based solely on the team’s point standing as nobody would be guaranteed a start if they failed, and slow cars on the racetrack trying to gain one point to lock themselves into the next race, because it would all be based on what you did during the current week-there would be no last week and no next week, just right now.
The last 14% of voters said NASCAR should go even further and simply hold a single round of qualifying, with the fastest 43 cars making the field. This has merit as well, although it does carry a higher risk of a big name not making the field should that driver make a mistake during his or her run. It is racing, after all, and purists have long been wanting a system where qualifying was based solely on speed. It would ensure that practice time was more equitable, and would allow every sponsor an equal chance to be in the field, which could encourage sponsors to pick up smaller teams.
In any case, between the events that took place at Martinsville and the sentiment of race fans, the top 35 rule has some serious flaws, from creating a grossly unfair system in which teams are penalized for violations based on their points position, with teams lower in points being penalized much more harshly then the ones in the top 35, to teams making questionable moves during a race because a point is on the line. Just as importantly and probably more so, if our poll was any indication, the fans are overwhelmingly against it. If I made the call, it would be to go back to two rounds of qualifying with just a handful of provisional spots. I really can’t see a big name going home under this system, with its two failsafe measures.
NASCAR took drastic measures a few months ago because the fans were loud and clear about the two-car draft at Daytona and Talladega. It could be a huge move on behalf of the sanctioning body to recognize the fans on the top 35 rule as well, and to restore a more equitable system for qualifying, one that won’t set up the type of situations we saw at Martinsville. Yes, they would have to admit there was a mistake…but ultimately, it would save face with the fans. It’s time to do something really important for the fans, and dropping this rule makes perfect sense. Doing the right thing isn’t the easy thing, but this time it means keeping fans while making the sport fair and safer. It should be a no-brainer.
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
NHRA does not have a top 35 rule, sometimes a “big name” will miss a race and yet they seem to fill the stands at the races every week. Yes, it is time for top 35 rule to go away.
Think of that added drama of second day qualifying! How many more people would watch both sessions to see if their favorite driver would make the field? Isn’t that just the sort of ‘excitement’ Nascar tries to manufacture? How much better if it happens on it’s own.
I couldn’t help but notice Amy you used two huge contradictions in terms. And not only that, but you did it in the same sentence. Here, let me show you: “…NA$CAR’s brain trust…” and “…an admission of a mistake on the part of the sanctioning body…”
See. Please try and be more careful in your future writings it’s not very healthy for any of the new NASCAR fans that are pouring into the sport. Darn it, I went and did it myself…my bad.
Intelligent decisions based on racing are not made in NASCAR by the current executive and his toadies. But decisions based on money are.
Top 35 rule blows, along with the free pass or lucky dog as they say !!
Like Jim said, the NHRA doesn’t have a top 35 rule and they do just fine.
Last year John Force – probably the biggest name in drag racing – missed the show and they still had a big crowd for the final eleminations.
I do like the old qualifying system, but really NASCAR could have addressed this in the point system when they made changes to it.
Just award five points, or whatever, for all positions under 20th or 25th. There would be no incentive for damaged cars to be on the race track.
I would like to see the top 30 to 35 cars scored to keep wrecked cars off the track. As far as qualifying, the old system was fine. Allow a finite number of provisional positions and make qualifying count.
I agree with the idea to award the same number of points to drivers finishing below about 25th or 30th…I have long felt like that would be a good solution to keep damaged cars from staying out on the race track. It could also keep a bad day from hurting a driver as much in the standings.
As for qualifying, I say take the top 40 speeds and have 3 provisionals. I think there needs to be a backup plan in place just in case a top driver crashes or blows an engine in qualifying…but 3 provisionals is plenty. Set the rest of the field by speed!
Solid article, Amy. The provisional system was scrapped because the sanctioning body thought fans didn’t understand.
However, they allow convoluted point-swaps to take place with this system. The provisional system worked fine and with the lack of entries at the moment, the current locked-in field can be abolished. Will BZF and NASCAR do this? No.
Put an emphasis on qualifying again outside of pit position, whether taking the fastest 36-40 and the rest provisionals. Those provisionals would keep the drivers that matter in the show.
If you are a champion in the past 20 years, you can utilize a past-champion provisional.
This would lock-out Awesome Bill and Texas Terry, but they are running for teams that should not be taking spots from regulars.
I loved the old qualifying system and if we could go back to that I am all for it. Maybe lowering the provisionals from 5 to 3 and only allowing all drivers 2 or 3 uses of the provisional in one season.
I have only been a fan since 2003. I go to both local Cup races every year.
I would still go, no matter who was in or out of the running.
I just like watching the racing, not some particular driver.
If I am the “new fans” NA$CAR is looking to impress they are missing the mark.
Real fans of any sport prefer competition no matter how the game plays out. They don’t like manufactured excitment.
Great article. As a long time fan, I would like to see something like the following. The previous year’s chase qualifiers are locked in. This would cover a large share of the fan’s favorites. Then 13-40 qualify on time. 41-43 would be provisionals. However, limit them to just 2 or 3 as suggested above. Then the same with scoring as suggested above. After 25th place, all cars get the same points to keep the wrecks off the track.
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