By admin | August 29, 2009
By Richard Allen
Qualifying for the NAPA Auto Parts 200 on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be most remembered for the session having taken place in wet conditions. However, there was one thing that, to me, was more interesting.
I’ve stated several times on this site that I do not want to see NASCAR race in the rain. The cars are too heavy, the tires are too narrow and most of the drivers are too inexperienced for such conditions. So, I was not caught up in watching the cars slosh, slip and slide around in the rain.
What did get my attention was the use of group session qualifying. Instead of the typical one car at a time format, qualifying was completed by sending cars out in small groups for eight minutes at a time. Drivers could run as many laps as they could get in over the course of their allotted time. This type format is used from time to time in road racing due to the lengthy duration of the one-at-a-time method on twisting, multi-turn tracks.
How interesting would qualifying be if this format were used more often?
Imagine cars trying to find the right spot on the track at Bristol or Martinsville if they were to be out there at the same time with five or six other cars. Or, imagine the maneuvering that would go on in trying to get in just the right spot for a fast lap at Talladega or Daytona.
Add one other possible kink to the mix. What if teams were allowed to pit and make minor adjustments during their eight minute sessions?
Obviously, the possibility of pit stops during qualifying would potentially drive costs up, which would not be well received by owners. And, the possibility multiple cars on the track raises the possibility of the ‘Big One’ happening before the drop of the green flag, which would not be well received by competitors.
I don’t know if running every qualifying session, or even a few sessions, like this would be a good idea or not. However, I know the possibilities that could arise would create a great deal of intrigue. And even more excitement could be added if random squirrels were placed on the track like the one that ran in front of Mike Wallace during his qualifying run.
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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