Hopefully, Friday’s qualifying session, or scratch that, embarrassment, is rock bottom for this qualifying format that NASCAR rolls out. You know, the one that left the few fans in attendance at the Auto Club Speedway on Friday afternoon booing.
Yes, we saw the 12 drivers that made it to the third and final round of Busch Pole Award qualifying on Friday get booed – in qualifying. And they should get booed too. They earned every last boo from the brave souls who attended that debacle. Every last one of them. No one has any excuse in this. It’s like that spiderman meme where the two spiderman’s are standing there pointing at one another. Everyone is waiting for someone else to go.
See, no one had any guts to go out on the 2-mile track to turn in a lap because well, they were afraid. A cat and mouse game ensued and the children at the end of pit road all lost. All of them. 0-for-12.
Because no one wants to be the lead car, and why would they, everyone fires their engines, pulls out of their pit stalls and goes directly to the end of pit road to just sit there. They wait. Wait some more. Wait even more. Wait again. Wait, wait, wait. Then, with the clock set to hit zero in the closing minute, they speed off pit road to try and make it around the track just in time before the checkered flag falls on the round.
Unfortunately, because of that, today happens.
The second round, the 24 drivers in that 10 minute session barely made it to the finish line in time. They each got one lap in, expect for Kurt Busch who went out early to lay down a lap early just in case what we saw in the third round happened. He’s the only one with guts in this series I guess.
Then, they all flat messed it up in Round 3. See, they all waited too long and by time they got around, it was too late. None of the 12 drivers turned in a lap because well…..
How is this entertainment? How did any of the few hundred fans in attendance enjoy that. What pleasure do you take in watching cars spend more time sitting at the end of pit road then going in circles, which you pay to see? No one pays to see cars sit idle. That’s what these drivers must think though. They’re too concerned about drafting position that they forget about the fans in the stands or the ones watching on TV.
I get why the drivers don’t want to go out too. The first car is the one cutting the air in the draft. With the new aero package adding drag, the first car is slower than the car behind. I get why no one wants to be the second car in line too. Yes, he’s faster than the first car, but slower than the car behind him. Third is the same way and so on. It’s a game that no one wants to lead.
NASCAR gave 12 drivers five minutes for the pole. No one wanted it. It got so bad that when someone finally does take off, cars fall in line and dangerously speed off pit road. NASCAR had to set a pit road speed for get this – in qualifying.
NASCAR is at fault for this too. This package could have produced what NASCAR said before the season “entertainment” in qualifying. Instead, it’s the worst program on television. I’d rather watch reruns of Keeping Up With the Kardashians followed by the Jersey Shore than what we’ve witnessed in qualifying this year. There’s at least some drama in those terrible shows than what we’ve witnessed this season. Friday, wasn’t drama. Sitting at the end of pit road for 99-percent of the available time in qualifying isn’t drama. Seriously too. The first two rounds are 10 minutes in length. The final round is five. Between them, are five minute breaks. Essentially, qualifying from start of round one to the end of the final round lasts 35 minutes. Out of those 35 minutes, 31 of them they drivers sitting idle on pit road.
How is this fun?
NASCAR should have recognized this problem earlier and cut the cord. Changes are needed and needed quickly. While nothing will happen next week in Martinsville, they said that things will change for the week after in Texas. Granted, they don’t know exactly what yet, but there will be some changes.
My top change would be to just go back to single car qualifying. Everyone is literally turning one lap anyways. Why not do so again? Qualifying is about setting the field off pure speed anyways. That gets us a true starting lineup. If you don’t want to go back to that, then only make the rounds last 2 minutes. It forces the cars to just go. If you don’t want to go that extreme, then make it the cars in Round 1 hit the track in qualifying draw order. The one who draws number 40 exits pit lane, at speed, first, followed by 39, 38, 37, 36, etc. Then, the next rounds are led off pit road by the slowest remaining car eligible from the round prior. They have to exit pit road at the drop of the green flag too.
If NASCAR doesn’t force cars to move, nothing will change and we desperately need changes. This has to end.