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
Monday March 3, 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.
Happy Hour : The Official Columnist of NASCAR · Kurt Smith · Friday August 29, 2008
Happy Hour’s Kurt Smith is on vacation yet again and, quite frankly, we’re starting to wonder if that guy ever works (and from some of the email we get about him, it looks like some of you agree). But in his absence, Kurt left us a little commentary while he’s on a Happy Hour of his own down at the beach — this time about the slightly controversial Top 35 rule. Look for him to return with his regular column — along with his ever-popular Shorts — next week.
A lot of folks have a beef about the Top 35 rule. They believe — and I have a hard time arguing against it — that since the word “qualify” means “to demonstrate the required ability in an initial or preliminary contest,” and that is exactly what qualifying should entail.
But all that talk is indicative of how qualifying has undergone an increased level of awareness in our eyes — regardless of what you believe. In the past couple seasons of NASCAR’s edict that drivers in the Top 35 in owner points are guaranteed a spot in each weekly contest, broadcasters and journalists frequently speculate on what it means to “get your car in the Top 35” or who is “on the bubble” and who must “qualify on time.” How far we’ve come, indeed…we now spend time at water coolers and websites speculating about drivers who are around 35th in the standings. We didn’t care about that very much in the past, I’m certain. Maybe NASCAR isn’t so dumb after all.
Let’s look at some background here so we can dig a little deeper. The Top 35 rule was conceived so that the popular drivers and teams that competed every week would be guaranteed to be in the race. Basically, the rule amounts to NASCAR handing out as many as 35 provisionals at each event — and when you add the past champion’s provisional, that number rises to 36. With 50 entries for an event (an increasingly rare amount in Cup races these days), the maximum amount of provisionals needed would only be seven — but the Top 35 rule makes them available to everyone who has performed well enough to be part of what’s an “exclusive” club.
But there have been some abuses — for lack of a better word — since this rule was put into effect three years ago. Debuting with a new team, Sam Hornish, Jr. was given the No. 2 of Kurt Busch’s owner points when he entered the No. 77 car for Penske Racing. The move was made so he would have no problem making the first five races, with Busch able to fall back on his champion’s provisional on the off chance that he did not qualify fast enough. Michael Waltrip Racing pulled a similar stunt, giving David Reutimann’s points in the No. 00 car to Michael McDowell — a fresh rookie who performed fairly admirably, but certainly did not earn his way into the Top 35.
You can’t blame teams for exploiting this loophole of sorts — loopholes in rules are part of what makes the cars go round — but it’s doubtful that the intent or spirit of the rule was so that a driver who is new to Cup could be guaranteed a spot in races simply by virtue of being on a successful team — all while struggling teams bust their butts to make the field every week.
New teams also face a seriously uphill climb with the Top 35 rule. Michael Waltrip Racing and Team Red Bull — heck, Toyota in general when they appeared on the NASCAR scene — were often not able to participate in races during their debut season of 2007. Because they didn’t make each event, they couldn’t make up any ground, and so every week, they struggled to make the field again without the benefit of 400-500 miles of seeing how their cars behave on certain tracks. For new teams, the Top 35 rule was — is — an unfair catalyst of a vicious cycle of subpar performance.
But there’s two sides to every story. In defense of the Top 35 rule, there’s always a “ratings matter more than fair competition” argument that can be presented — an argument that is used frequently in defense of the Chase. If there’s no provisional system — just a qualifying round where the fastest 43 cars make the field — what happens if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wrecks during qualifying? Also, what if someone going for the championship hits the wall and qualifies 44th? You’ve suddenly got a whole world full of frustrated fans, people who traveled thousands of miles only to see a main event without one of its headline participants.
The obvious response to such a rhetorical bluff like that is to smash right through it — so what? Should popular drivers, drivers competing for championships, or drivers with big time sponsors be automatically entitled to a spot in the race? That is the implication of that argument, making it not only easy but worthwhile to shoot it down in flames. Take it to the next logical step, and NASCAR’s main concern shouldn’t be about the competition — just that popular drivers get on TV.
Having said all this, ultimately the Top 35 rule is the symptom of a flawed qualifying system — not the problem itself. The qualifying rules as they are have created a situation that necessitates a cushion. A driver gets two laps and that’s it; and if he spins in some oil on the track, well, tough cookies. Without a Top 35 rule, you would indeed see popular drivers — or championship contenders — not making the field on occasion, and sometimes through no fault of their own. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad or wrong thing, but it leaves too little margin for error and punishes simple mistakes too severely.
Like a DNF, teams would just have to accept it as part of the game, in hopes that all of the drivers would tend to get bit by the bad luck bug at some point. But a DNQ is an awfully stiff penalty to pay for what might not even be the driver or team’s fault. It would mean zero points for the week; not the already-harsh 35-50 generally associated with a DNF.
Zero points for the week because of some oil on the track? That’s a little too rough, even for a traditionalist like myself. DNFs already are more damaging to a driver and a team than they should be; by comparison, a DNQ with no provisionals of any kind would be devastating, and probably beyond a point where a team can recover.
The Top 35 rule at least provides a cushion for such incidents. It isn’t fair to new teams or single car struggling teams who might outqualify members of the Top 35 club, but it also gives a sort of mulligan to the “in the heat of battle” teams that might be victims of an incident while running just two laps.
So yeah, NASCAR could rule that the fastest 43 cars make the race regardless — but each driver getting just two laps, and living with the result no matter what, isn’t a great way to do it. It’s been suggested that as a compromise, drivers can get an extra, optional attempt at qualifying with their backup car if their initial effort either falls short of the field or results in a damaged car. Or maybe — and this is very far-fetched, but some people would love it — they could have 10-20 lap “heat races” on the day of the event, like at some dirt tracks. Speaking from a fan’s view, this might actually generate higher ratings than televised qualifying currently does. Having such heats the same day of the race would also leave drivers and crews with Friday to either take an always-needed day off, or simply work on practice. Personally, I think heat races would be awesome. But that’s just me.
Besides, multiple chances at qualifying or heat races would allow more of the cream to rise to the top anyway. A team might be off the first attempt of qualifying, but if they have another shot at it, they could nail it. In a heat race, we’d generally find out who is genuinely worthy of the main event.
Certainly, there are reasons to dislike the Top 35 rule — and it certainly isn’t wrong to say go fast or go home, whether you’re Stanton Barrett or Jeff Gordon. The old set of qualifying rules, with the provisionals granted as they were, wasn’t enough of a disaster to inspire the current system. But then, given how unforgiving and brutal an on-track incident during qualifying would become with such a hard line no-provisionals-whatsoever rule, that can be a small defense of the Top 35. It’s not the best way to do things, but the Top 35 rule in and of itself is a symptom of a larger issue — that being the otherwise unforgiving nature of the current set of qualifying rules.
And unless that is addressed to give all drivers more of a cushion, we’d probably be better off living with some sort of provisional system instead.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Nice work, I have always been in favor of some sort of “heat races” or similar, that way anyone who paid admission would get to see their favorite driver “race”, even if 60 cars showed up.
But the way NA$CRAP is going, they may have a hard time even filling a field in the future!
NA$CRAP has three days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday to “decide” who “qualifies” for a particular event, but they limit the qualifying window to just a couple of hours on one (1) day. It rains?? A goodbye to several teams is automatic, no matter how far they traveled!
Well, no one every accused NA$CRAP of being fair or logical now did they?
Wow! Never looked at qualifying by speed alone as too harsh before, but you’re right. You’ve sold me. Now if we could get NASCAR to listen, we might see heat races – If I were NASCAR I’d do 2 heat races, keeping the top 15, plus a final heat for the mulligan racers not in the top 15 the previous races, keeping 13. That’d be 43 cars in the field, total. Anyone who screws up in two heats deserves to go home! Rainouts can just fall back on the current rules (top 35 plus Past Champs plus winners plus top cars not in the top 35, or something like that).
As a stock car racing fan since the mid 60’s I think they need to qualify. Even if that means doing it the morning before the race if there is a rainout on qualifing day.
No more past champion gifts, no more trading cars (for owner points). Keep the top 35 owner points in place. Let the other 8 positions be up for grabs to the fastest drivers.
I used to go to South Boston Speedway every Saturday night back in the 60’s and 70’s. They always qualified right before the race. It really made for a good race.
NASCAR is just getting too fancy now. Go back to the basics. Make it fun for us fans again.
While I agree the old system is too harsh (given the chase format), I don’t like the current situation either. I think you give everyone two provisionals to use throughout the season. Then, everyone qualifies on time, and, if they score a DNQ, they still have the provisional to use (but only twice). Probably harmless enough, as people would be saving the provisionals for the Chase, so many would not get used.
You are wrong in your accusations towards Michael Waltrip. He wanted David Reutimann to be able to transfer the points he and his team had earned in the 00 to the 44 but NASCAR would not let him. Even though the team and even the old 00 cars were simply going to run under a new number, 44, NASCAR still said that would be transferring points in the middle of the season and they were afraid because there was talk at that time of Kyle Petty switching points with Bobby Labonte and Sam Hornish switching points again in the middle of the year.
Another option is to just go back to having more than one round of qualifying, which NASCAR has had in the past (and not just at Daytona) and having one provisional, perhaps reserved only for teams in that meet one of a number of criteria. Perhaps first reserve a provisional for teams in the Top 20 (or whatever), then maybe have it be for a team that has won this season or the previous season, and so on. But, I’m thinking such a provisional system should become team dependent and not driver dependent, and then perhaps NASCAR has to get stricter about transferring of points (not allowing it).
All of that said, any fan whose attended races at their local short track has seen heat races, and they’re fun to watch and would, as mentioned, ensure that a driver and car is seen under race conditions. We kind of see that system with The Duels at Daytona. The only drawback is that a heats system will increase the likelihood of cars being damaged or destroyed than qualifying alone, and you can get taken out of the action just as easily by something not of your doing.
That’d be true in a two-round qualifying system, too, but to have bad luck two days in a row? The possibility of rainout would still exist under that system, but it decreases. So, maybe first round on Friday, second round on Saturday morning (keep it early so the window of opportunity is more open for flexibility), and then race on Sunday. (Or adjusted to Thursday, Friday, Saturday.) If first round is rained out, it all moves to second round. If both are rained out, then unfortunately it goes by points.
And people will say that that increases costs, but you know what? NASCAR teams will always find ways to re-direct those saving to other areas. Whether it moving to seven-point shaker rigs instead of windtunnels or whatever.
There used to be 2 days of qualifying, Friday set the top 20 and Saturday set the rest of the field. Evidently, I’m a real old fan if no one else remembers this. If you were 21st or worse, you could stand on your time or try to improve in the second day of qualifying. This would help those who just missed it or wrecked and had to bring out a back up car. I’m old school and I think the fastest 43 should run no matter who has to go home. As qualifying goes now, it’s only to see which pit stall you’re going to have. Not very exciting for spectators. But, Nascar will never be what it used to be since Sir Doofus Brian started watching his dollars go up, but if he keeps messing it up, he might be watching them go down, down, down.
I’d like to see the top 35 owner’s disappear.
My plan would be the only one’s to get a guaranteed spot in the field would be the Chase drivers from the previous season. That’s it, 12 spots guaranteed, everybody else races their way into the field. Wreck in qualifying? Unlucky you, that’s racing—unless you’ve made the Chase the previous year, then you get a spot at the back of the field.
Or maybe make it the top twenty in points get a guaranteed spot.
Or failing that, switch from the top 35 in owner’s points to that of the top thirty-five in <i>driver’s</i> points.
Start a new team with a new driver in the series? Earn your way in.
Sign a driver in the top 35 to your new team? Lucky you, your car and driver make the field.
Gives importance to the driver’s, who are the real draw in racing.
Regarding heat races:
I used to really pay attention to qualifying. Now I don’t watch it or listen to it.
To me, the only time it matters is at short tracks to get a good pit stall.