Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's Time for NASCAR to Change Qualifying System in Event of Rainouts

Last season we watched Jimmie Johnson's enormous advantage of being on the 'pole' several times in the final races for the Chase for the Cup due to rain-outs in qualifying. If memory serves that was 9 times. Clearly, that was a distinct advantage when it came to starting the races and affected the finishes. Not to mention having first choice of pit stalls each time...NASCAR has never attempted to run qualifying at any time other than the initial qualifying time scheduled for the event (unless of course the rain stops in a 'reasonable' amount of time so qualifying can be run). It's long past time that this practice was changed--since NASCAR automatically locks in the top 35 in points in the races anyway, there is no real reason not to have the cars attempt to qualify on a Saturday -- or even on a Sunday! -- before the race. Most of the time the Truck and Nationwide cars qualify the same day, so what's the big deal?

This weekend at Martinsville is a prime example of this problem. Qualifying was rained out for the Cup cars on Friday, but the Truck Series managed to get qualifying in on Saturday morning--even though the Truck race was postponed to Monday due to rain. Even if qualifying were rescheduled and again rained out and ultimately not doable for Saturday or Sunday, there are certainly alternatives to starting races by points. How about drawing numbers? OK--it would have to be done in 2 segments to accommodate the current rules, first the top 35 cars, then draw among the rest of the cars entered to fill out the field. Since most of the cars are within thousandths or hundredths of seconds from the front of the field anyway, this would be at least an attempt at fair play. NASCAR needs to revisit this issue. They're wondering why ratings were down last weekend 18 percent from last year's Bristol race--Bristol!!--between the NASCOT (NASCAR COT) and general alienation, fans who are having to watch their budgets are not only not buying tickets, they're not even watching on TV....

It is apparent that fans are tired of the 'super team' concept. Fans are looking for equity. There is no equity in starting a field by points if qualifying can't be worked in. And as in this weekend at Martinsville, there were windows of opportunity for qualifying that, once again, were ignored.

Get rid of the starting by points. There has to be a better way, in the event of rain washing out qualifying. If NASCAR wants to lure fans back they might well implement something SOON that looks like they are at least trying to be proactive and, dare we say, fair?