by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.February 27, 2009 12:10 pm UTC No Comments
Once the guaranteed entrants finish jockeying for pit selection, real qualifying begins.
Fifty-one cars are on the entry list for the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and fifteen of them have to literally fight their way into the race and can make for the best drama of the weekend.
Predictions were that once NASCAR left the season opener at Daytona the number of cars trying to make the race could fall below the forty-three that constitutes a full Sprint Cup field. The general consensus that the “under funded” teams would not follow the circus west has not held true. Several of these teams including Tommy Baldwin‘s and Jeremy Mayfield‘s said all along that they had every intention of racing the entire season.
Mayfield picked up a sponsor and co-owner in the All-Sport brand of thirst quencher. Baldwin has been sponsored by Red Bank Outfitters in the first three events and have added the third race at Vegas as well. The Yates Racing no. 28 driven by Travis Kvapil had Golden Corral Restaurants on the car at Daytona and they will be back on the car for at least three more races starting in Sin City.
So with the entry lists bigger than expected by NASCAR and many experts; does that go against the business model projections that these start up teams anticipated? Baldwin told ON PIT ROW that the primary reason he felt they could make a go of it in the Cup Series was because there was no testing in the off season and the size of the fields trying to qualify would be smaller.
There are sixteen teams in Vegas looking to fill eight spots. One of those spots will go to Tony Stewart because of his guaranteed provisional. Qualifying is set for 3:30pm local time (pacific), but the real excitement won’t start until the go or go home cars hit the track at approximately 5:00pm. That is when the true knock out qualifying starts as fifteen cars vie for seven spots. That type of knock out qualifying is what made “Bump Day” at Indy in May so exciting and what has the potential for being the best part of the show at each race track.
Just imagine if instead of thirteen drivers having to qualify in; twenty-eight needed to fight for a spot. Changing the Top 35 to the Top 20 would give NASCAR their certified stars in the race and make the rest of the field fight for the privilege to race on Sunday. NASCAR will never abandon the Top 35 rule; we can only hope that they amend it.
Qualifying is an important piece of the NASCAR experience; both at the track and to the television viewer. Therefore, every effort must be made to qualify at least the Cup cars every week. It is fine to schedule qualifying on Friday, but NASCAR has to have a Plan B,C and D ready in case of rain. Qualifying CANNOT be rained out. If it takes until Sunday morning to get cars qualified, then that is what has to be done. It is too important to the Tommy Baldwins, Joe Nemechecks, Jeremy Mayfields, James Finchs, Bob Germains and Bob Jenkins of the world to not make every attempt to get it in. Scrapping qualifying is no longer a luxury that NASCAR can afford; team’s ultimate existence is at stake.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media