This past weekend, qualifying for Sunday’s Centurion at the Glen was rained out on Friday, forcing several part-time teams to load their cars back onto their transporters without any type of opportunity to make the race. With the amount of money and effort the teams that battling for the last eight spots in the starting field have put forth just to get to the track, such a haphazard solution hardly seemed fair. Just ask part-time competitor and fan phenomenon Boris Said about the issue:
“For a part-time team, you don’t get to race that much, and [for] two races in a row get taken away [due to rain is tough],” claimed the road course veteran-turned future NASCAR full-time driver back at the Glen, who is running his own team this year in a handful of events. “I don’t understand why the schedule can’t be adjusted and [we] just qualify tomorrow when it’s going to be sunny. It’s just hard for a small team. It pretty much puts us out of business. It puts me out of business. It’s just a lot of income lost.”
Of course, any driver on the outside looking in on a race is hardly going to be a happy camper. But Said’s message was clear: NASCAR should make every effort to allow those teams to qualify for races on the most equal playing field possible. It’s a problem the sport needs to fix, as part-time teams have every right as their full-time counterparts to get a fair shot at making the field. But as NASCAR continues to evolve, it looks like they’re working to fix the problem… sooner rather than later.
The sport is considering implementing a procedure, possibly by this weekend, where all of the cars not locked into the Top 35 in owner points will qualify consecutively, together, on a race weekend. This is by far the fairest way for these teams to compete for a starting spot in the race. Currently, they qualify wherever the draw puts them in the lineup, leaving them at the whim of the effects of weather and track conditions, as well as giving some teams an unfair advantage because the track is faster for those that are late or early depending on the time that qualifying is held. In a scenario with all the “go or go home” teams qualifying together, however, those effects are minimized, creating a more level playing field for those that actually have to make the race on speed this week.
Considering some of the wacky qualifying scenarios we’ve been through this year, a move from NASCAR would definitely be a step in the right direction; but maybe NASCAR should also consider holding a supplemental qualifying session just for those cars that are not locked into the Top 35 in event of a rainout. This weekend would have been a perfect example of how that could have been implemented: while the weather was bad on Friday, it was bright and sunny on Saturday, leaving the track with a perfect opportunity to squeeze in an extra round of qualifying. In that scenario, NASCAR could have held a session just for the teams that were attempting to make the race on speed before the Busch activities of the day, and had the final eight positions decided within an hour.
The priority with the Top-35 rule is for NASCAR to make whatever way they qualify as fair as possible for those teams that are not locked into the field on Sunday. It’s my hope that NASCAR does, in fact, implement something, and hopefully change its rules so that the cars with their race on the line will qualify first – this makes it easy, because should bad weather move in, the final eight spots can be decided without much controversy. No doubt, this clearly the fairest and most equitable way to decide which of those cars make the field.
Let’s hope the rumors are true.