Author Topic: Qualifying Business  (Read 1534 times)


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Qualifying Business
« on: May 09, 2007, 08:49:02 PM »
There are so many misconceptions and opinions on the perceived qualifying problem that is currently plaguing the Cup series that the topic is permeating a lot of the mainstream media as well as a lot of threads on the forums.  Not to fret, Quack on Track is here to set the record straight and help everyone understand what problem(s) do or don't actually exist.

Myth: Life (racing) is Fair
Status: Confirmed false
Why: Look around you.  Every single day you see all sorts of things that aren't fair.  $795 to adjust the date by one day for a flight that you already booked for only $234?  Not fair.  Being 3 months old and acquiring leukemia?  Not fair.  Turning on the radio and being subjected to rap "music"?  Not fair.  Leading 328 of 400 laps and having your engine detonate?  Not fair.  Having to endure a Labor Day Weekend race at California Speedway instead of racing at Darlington?  Not fair.  Being short, fat, bald and ugly instead of tall, dark and handsome?  Not fair.

Myth: Qualifying well equates to top finishes in the race
Status: Confirmed false
Why: See: Ryan "Drop Like a Rock when the Green Flies" Newman.

Myth: Qualifying 20th gets you a ticket home rather than a race date
Status: Depends
Why: This one will take awhile, so bear with me here...

A few years ago, NASCAR decided that they would change the qualifying rules.  Top 35 in owner points are guaranteed a spot in the race, with the other 8 positions up for grabs to the remaining cars that show up.

So then, why is it that a guy that "qualifies" 20th gets sent home while a guy that "qualifies" 46th races?  The simple answer is: it isn't that way.  Under the current rules, the procedure that has long been known as "qualifying" is actually very poorly named.  A much better name would be "Pit Selection & Qualifying".

Pit Selection
The fact of the matter is, the "Top 35" aren't actually qualifying; they're simply running for pit selection.  Many of these guys make very little, if any, attempt at qualifying speed.  They don't need to.  They're working on getting their car setup for race conditions, which are vastly different.  Why?  Because sponsors don't pony up the big bucks just because you can run fast on Friday.  Sponsors want their car up front at the end of the race on Sunday.  That's what drives their business, and therefore their checkbooks.

Truth be known, the Top 35 guys could all tie for the slowest time, even if it was 10 minutes slower than the fastest car outside of the Top 35, and they'd be in the race.  To a racing purist, this is sacrilege.  However, NASCAR has long since stopped being a purist league.  While the racing is still arguably among the best in the world, let's face it, it's as much (or more?) entertainment now than it is racing.  The rules are the rules, and the Top 35 are doing what -anyone- in their right mind would do: use the rules to their advantage as best they can so that they can maintain their advantage.

The other 15-20 cars that show up are the only ones who are actually qualifying.  These guys pay virtually no attention whatsoever to the Top 35 cars.  The only thing that matters is that they are among the Top 8 of the "other" guys.  So, even though they might be the 20th fastest of the 50+ cars that ran, it's completely immaterial if they weren't in the Top 8 of their respective group.

These are the rules.  Every team knew them, and every sponsor knew them.  No one has been blind-sided by some arbitrary whim of Brian France.  (Well, at least not about this one.)

While this obviously hurts these guys as far as getting race trim practice goes, it also means that if they want to get in the show, they have the advantage of simply going out and practicing in qualifying trim.  There is a *really* fine line between having enough speed to be one of the Top 8 and being somewhat setup for race trim, and the guys who are missing the show are generally missing because they either

(a) are too far on the race trim side of the that line, or
(b) are in "field filler" caliber equipment.

If they fall into Category A, they'll eventually figure it out and will make more races.  If they fall into Category B, why would anyone want them to be in the race in the first place?  I'm not very keen on watching field fillers get lapped on Lap 10, Lap 30, Lap 75, Lap 100, Lap 130......  I want to see cars that at least pretend to be competitive.

Rules That Stick
NASCAR has often been chided for having a rules book that was, well, pretty non-existent.  It seems that every infraction is "detrimental to stock car racing", rather than anything specific.  Then there's the famous "ooohhh, we didn't think of that one" rule change mid-season.  One judgment call after another.  Two seemingly identical infractions that receive two diametrically opposed penalties.  You get the picture. 

Whether you agree or disagree with the Top 35 rule, you have to give NASCAR credit for actually making it a black-and-white rule, and for abiding by it.  Here's to hoping that they continue to stick to it for the remainder of the season.  Then it can be addressed before we get to Daytona next year.

Bottom line, the only problem with "qualifying" in NASCAR is that people are delusional enough to think that if NASCAR changed the rules, somehow the cars that are currently going home would magically be making races.  History proves that no matter what the qualifying rules are, the same cars that are making the race each week would still do so, and the same cars that are going home each would still be going home.  Unless of course NASCAR came up with a rule that stated no team can run two weeks in a row.  Now that could get interesting.

Happy racing.


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Re: Qualifying Business
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2007, 11:18:23 AM »
 Remember a few years ago when Carl Long and Morgan Shepherd were making it into Sunday's race, only to run a couple of laps and park the car. They were field fillers. Out of the race faster than I could drink a beer. (well, maybe a couple of beers). I don't like the current qualifying format. It's what it is until NASCAR decides (or not) to change it.