NASCAR is proposing going back to its old race qualifying format in 2013 and eliminating the top 35 system.
Currently, the top 35 teams automatically get a start in each Sprint Cup Series racing event. The spots are earned based on team points. The higher each driver finishes every individual race the more points he or she earns their team.
The present format was established in 2005 to guarantee that full-time teams with big name drivers and sponsors would automatically get into each race. These teams do not even have to run in qualifying events to earn a spot in races.
This rule change has been thought to hurt attendance at NASCAR qualifying events, since it has put less emphasis on getting into the race. In fact, twelve out of the 19 Cup races this year have had two or fewer cars fail to qualify.
Fans seem open to the idea of going back to the old qualifying system.
“If they are truly ditching the top 35 rule and going with the fastest 43 every week, then I’m all for the change,” said Texas resident Mark Mohon.
“Get rid of the top 35 rule. I’ve said this over and over again. If Tiger Woods doesn’t make the cut on Friday, then he doesn’t play on the weekend,” said Frank Farmer a North Carolina resident.
Other fans are not sure how they feel about the possibility of not seeing their favorite racer, drive every week.
“Can you picture Jimmy Johnson not making a race,” said Texas resident Michael Wolfe.
While some other fans are entirely opposed to the change.
“That [rule change] is dumb,” said Massachusetts resident Jeff Rodgers. ” Think about it you have all these start and park teams that are really good at qualifying. You’re telling me they are going to get in, and a driver that actually tries will not because of one lap time. Not to mention if Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. has tire failure in qualifying over half your viewers might be gone if he is not in the race.”
Start and park teams have been a problem plaguing NASCAR for years. Lesser known teams and drivers will qualify for races and then purposely pull their cars out of the race after a few laps just to collect the prize money. This money is often used to further invest in the team, or invest in other more popular and profitable teams owned by the same companies.
There are proposals being discussed between NASCAR officials and owners to still try and make sure that the big name teams and drivers qualify for events. One such proposal calls for the top 38 cars to get in on speed, with a past champion provisional for one driver. The last four drivers would be let in based on who is highest in the point standings but did not qualify based on speed.
If the proposal goes into effect the top 35 cars at the end of 2012 will not be guaranteed a spot in the first five races of 2013 unlike they have been in the past.
With increased fan support and little objections from owners and drivers it seems as if the old qualifying rules will go back into place starting next season. How the new-old format will be shaped and how it might affect races will be seen when the 2013 NASCAR season unfolds.