By admin | May 19, 2008
By Richard Allen
The real qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 was back this year.
Of course, they have held qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway preceding the race in previous years, but this year qualifying was what it is supposed to be. There was plenty of nail biting, white knuckling and praying going on right up to the final gun.
More often than not after the 1996 break up of open wheel racing Indy qualifying has proven to be somewhat anti-climatic. The 33 car field was typically set well before the end of final day of time trials with no other car capable of bumping its way into the line up.
This year, driver Mario Dominguez was on the track and going flat out in a final desperate attempt to make the race when he lost control and slammed the outside wall destroying his car and his hopes of participating in the prestigious race. All the while driver Max Papis sat helplessly as he watched his chance of racing go by the wayside when time expired.
Just prior to all of that drama former Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier had turned in a gutsy performance to gain entry into the race.
NASCAR, on the other hand, does not have the same excitement in its time trials. Qualifying for NASCAR has been turned into a pit stall selection contest. With 35 teams guaranteed a spot in each race there is little to be determined.
Even the qualifying races held before the Daytona 500 are but a shadow of their old selves. Those races have become somewhat glorified 150 mile test sessions that happen to give out a trophy.
NASCAR would be better served to breathe some life into its qualifying format. There should be a certain number of guaranteed positions for each race. Simply taking the fastest 43 cars would bring about the possibility of one of the top stars missing a race, and thus disappointing numerous fans, due to a flat tire or some oil on the track.
However, 35 guaranteed spots is too many. By securing so many positions NASCAR is trying to provide a degree of value for the team owners. However, by doing so they may also be discouraging new teams from forming due to the small number of open spots.
By guaranteeing 20 or 25 positions, NASCAR could assure teams and fans that those who have performed well would be in that weekendâ€™s race. But also, they could encourage more teams to enter races and could inject a bit more drama into Fridays at the track.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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