By admin | October 16, 2012
By Richard Allen
I am always one who is quick to criticize NASCAR for things I don’t like, so in the interest of fairness, I’m going to offer praise when the sanctioning body does something I agree with.
On Tuesday, it was officially announced that a significant change will take place in the way fields will be set for Sprint Cup races in 2013. Since 2005, team owners who ranked in the top-35 of the standings were guaranteed a place in the starting lineup, no matter how fast or slow their car might be in qualifying. The number of guaranteed places in the starting lineup next season will be reduced to seven.
Next year, the fastest 36 cars in time-trials will make the race, regardless of their place in the points. Then, the six highest placed car owners not already in the field will assume positions 37-42 on the starting grid. Also, one past champion who has not qualified by other means will be awarded the 43rd starting spot.
Theoretically, under the system currently in use a car can post a lap within the top-15 or even better during qualifying yet still miss making the field if that car’s time was beaten by seven others who were not among the top-35 in the standings. Conversely, a car locked in by the top-35 rule can post a lap 3-4mph slower than the rest of the field and still be included when the race takes the green flag.
One obvious problem with the system as it currently stands is that it discourages new involvement in the sport. A potential team owner and/or sponsor might be discouraged from participating in Sprint Cup racing because there are 35 spots in the starting lineup already spoken for with only seven open to those not locked in. In the future, there will be 36 open slots on the grid. That offers a much better chance for a new team to qualify.
Aside from new teams, tracks and NASCAR’s television partners will benefit from this move. They will have much better packages to sell to fans and advertisers for their Friday or Saturday events.
But it will be the fans that stand to gain the most according to one NASCAR official.
“This is a big win for our fans,” said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. “They’ll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying.”
Ultimately, the removal of the top-35 rule will be good for the sport. That many cars being guaranteed into a starting lineup was too many. More competition mixed with a little uncertainty always makes for a better show.
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