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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NASCAR qualifying rules confound me

Being a Ryan Newman fan has taught me so much about the inner workings of NASCAR. More than not, Newman is affected by a rule here, a policy there, or an arbitrary action by the sanctioning body. More often than not, it is detrimental to him.

The latest question I have, is in regards to qualifying at Richmond. In particular, since qualifying was rained out, how did it happen that Kyle Larson earned the top starting spot for Saturday night's race. Per NASCAR's rule book, "Section 9-5 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book (in 2013, if qualifying was cancelled, the rule was to set the field by the practice speeds in the first practice)," according to Jayski's Silly Season Site. 

I wonder why that is. Wouldn't it make more sense to set the field according to the fastest speed in the final practice--the one closest to when qualifying would have taken place? That is where Ryan Newman comes in, since he drove the fastest lap in that session. When I heard that he was fastest in Happy Hour, I wrongly assumed he would be on the pole for the race. I was stunned to see he started, what 18th!

Wouldn't it make more sense for the starting position to more closely approximate actual qualifying? After all, a fast car right off the truck is a great luxury, but should that rare happenstance be rewarded over the work done by crews and drivers to perfect their times? Shouldn't the time closest to when qualifying actually take place be the time to be rewarded in case of a rainout?

Using the practice speeds in the first practice makes no sense to me. It would even make more sense to use a cumulative speed, awarding the pole to the fastest average speed. 

NASCAR has completely revamped its qualifying format, which gives teams a chance to better themselves during the course of the qualifying session. NASCAR seems to reward consistency, except in this case. Their own rule to set the running order by the first practice is simply not consistent with teams bettering themselves. I think a change is in order. What do you think?


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