Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Since You Asked, Here's How To Fix NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying


It’s increasingly difficult to find anyone who enjoys NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series qualifying system.

Long on guarantees for top drivers and short on actual qualifying, NASCAR’s Friday afternoon time trial sessions have become as exciting to watch as Grandma rearranging her spice rack. The vast majority of drivers and teams arrive at the speedway each week “pre-qualified” by virtue of being in the Top-35 in owner points. It’s a cushy deal for the teams, but dull as dishwater for fans, most of whom know days in advance that their favorite driver will race in Sunday’s 500-miler. “Qualifying Day” has been neutered like the family dog, and now amounts to little more than “Arranging Day.”

NASCAR’s current, owner points-based system was designed to ensure that no big-name driver is left on the sidelines when the green flag flies on Sunday afternoon. Many fans pinch pennies for months to afford their annual Sprint Cup outing, and the last thing they want when arriving at the track is to discover that their favorite driver failed to qualify and will not be competing this week.

That’s an understandable concern, and it’s easily addressed. Fans deserve a better, more exciting qualifying experience that gives top-name drivers every opportunity to race on Sunday . Here’s how to make it happen…

STEP ONE: Abolish the Top-35. Without it, every team arrives at the race track in survival mode, tasked with laying down a fast qualifying lap to ensure their participation in Sunday’s main event. No more 35-man lock-in, no more Past Champion’s Provisionals for drivers a decade or more past their prime. Go fast, or go home.

STEP TWO: Real, meaningful time trials. Every driver gets his traditional two laps on the clock. When time-trials are complete, the fastest 35 drivers are in the race; regardless of who they are, who they drive for, or where they finished in points last season. If unheralded newcomer Ed Shlabotnik builds a scorching fast race car in his two-bay garage – and it passes NASCAR’s pre-qualifying inspection – he’s allowed to out-qualify Smoke, Jimmie and the boys and start on the pole for Sunday’s race. Qualifying for a race on speed is admittedly a radical concept these days, but the idea would infuse a much-needed element of unpredictability to the process and help repopulate NASCAR’s increasingly empty grandstands on qualifying day.

STEP THREE: Add the top-point drivers. After the first 35 positions have been set via time trials, NASCAR fills the next seven spots based on current championship driver points. Simply put, the top seven drivers in points who failed to make the field on speed are added to the lineup, in order of standing. This virtually guarantees that no big-name driver is left at the altar.

STEP FOUR: Add last week’s winner. If he fails to qualify by all other means, last week’s race-winning driver is added to the field as the 43rd and final starter. If last week’s winner has already made the field, an eighth driver is added to the field according to driver championship points.

It’s simple, it’s exciting and it’s fair. NASCAR, your thoughts?

70 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:00 PM

    Looks good - sell it to the suits in NASCAR.

    I remember when "Pole Day" actually meant something and tracks could fill seats. It's really meaningless today.

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  2. Love it, best idea I have heard in long time

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  3. sounds like a good idea Dave. I, too, would like the "qualifying" put back into qualifying.

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  4. That's why your the God Father! sounds pretty darn good to me.

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  5. Todd Hutch12:08 PM

    Amen Brother....

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  6. Bill Panzich12:08 PM

    BINGO! Ya nailed Dave!

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  7. hell yeah, sounds good to me.

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  8. Nasgirl12:11 PM

    Sounds like a fine plan to me. I know we used to look forward to qualifying at Talladega years ago. Not so much anymore. We just stay at the camp sight and find out the line up by watching SPEED or the newspaper the next day. This would definitely add some excitement back into race weekend for sure!

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  9. Makes too much sense, so it will probably never happen. It might also improve the start & park situation. You qualify with a fast lap ahead of top teams is it more profitable to race on or park? Great idea!

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  10. I like it. Nothing is more boring in life than Talladega qualifying, so this would definitely help things out.

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  11. Nasgirl2812:12 PM

    Sounds like a fine plan to me. I know we used to look forward to qualifying at Talladega years ago. Not so much anymore. We just stay at the camp site and find out the line up by watching SPEED or reading the newspaper the next day. This would definitely add some excitement back into race weekend for sure!

    Great idea Moody!
    Nasgirl28

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  12. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Sounds Logical to me.

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  13. I think it is a move in the correct direction. Many of the top teams at some tracks don't even practice for qualifying in a high spot, knowing they will get one. I like the high practice speeds to set the qualifying order. I agree opening the top 35 spots to everyone will provide more interest in Qualifying! And since no one really likes to be in the last few rows, they should work harder to qualify better.

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  14. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Finally a system I would enjoy watching.

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  15. Wow Dave, great ideas. I hope NASCAR will pay some attention. The current qualifying is such a joke.

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  16. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Great idea... if we could vote you would have mine!

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  17. Scott McManigal @smanigal12:26 PM

    Ideas like this is why you're the GODFATHER!!! Why we listen and call every day!!! Kudos for the well thought out concept and simple explanation of that concept!! Now NASCAR...we await your response!!!

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  18. Anonymous12:26 PM

    All they really need to do is just cut it back from the top 35 to the top 25.
    "If newcomer Ed Shlabotnik builds a scorching fast race car" that is set up for qualifying fast and is going to be a POS in the actual race then what's the point.
    The only way I am for your qualifying system is if we can go back to where teams can set the car up to go qualifying and then tear it apart for the race. Bye-bye one engine rule.

    It has been proven many times that someone can make a car faster in qualifying but, with the current rules, that will work against you in the race. What's the point in having a bunch of fast qualifying cars that then suck in the actual 4 hour race.

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  19. What about Daytona? Would you use the final Chase standings and the winner of the last race (Homestead)of the previous year to complete the field after the top 35 (although you might have to make it an even number, 34 or 36) are filled with the twin 150s?

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  20. And what happens when it rains?

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  21. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Unfortunately, NASCAR will listen just like they listen on their Facebook page.........they enjoy our comments but that's as far as it goes.

    As always, spot on Moody.


    Doug from NJ

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  22. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Again, slapping the boards!

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  23. You've convinced us, now go convince Brian, Mike and Robin.

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  24. Godfather.....that is a stellar new concept to make the WHOLE NASCAR experience fun and exciting!!

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  25. I fail to see how this actually makes any significance difference on the track. Ed Shlabotnik would be the pole sitter with the current system or with your system

    When was the last time that any go-or-go homer _who missed a race_ was one of the top 35 cars in qualifying? That's the problem that you are solving, and it doesn't exist.

    but with this plan, I'm also starting a team, and show up build a pretty good car and drive it and come in 36th in the time trials. Joe Schmo racing, has started and parked for 3 races and has 3 series owner points. He comes in 44th in the time trials, 6-tenths slower then me.

    Under your system Joe makes the race and I go home. So much for making the race on speed.

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    Replies
    1. It happens often where a go or go home driver has a faster q time than a top 35 guy, but misses the race because he isn't locked in. This is a great solution to all of the issues that are associated with keeping or eliminating the top 35.

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  26. Anonymous12:38 PM

    AMEN!!! If your fast, you race! If your not, but your consistently finishing up front and just had a bad day, you race! If you won last week and are having a bad day, you race! Simple!!! And it would do away with this BS of point swapping/phantom alliances!!!

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  27. Should have been the plan from the very beginnig and really not all that different from the old Provisional Plan

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  28. bentbob12:48 PM

    Right on Moody. Return to the simple (at least I understood it) provisional rule. They can go back to a number of provisionals (it used to be six, right?) limited per season, etc. When DW required to make position 43 his parking stop, they change the past champions rule....for the better of the sport. Abandoning the top 35 would be for the better as well....and yes, qualifying would mean something.

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  29. Anonymous12:52 PM

    Love this qualifying idea. I'd have to watch or DVR every Friday. Pretty much could care less now. I'd probably suggest doing something a little different for the Daytona 500 though, like maybe that is the only race where the Chasers from the previous season are locked in and maybe the winner of the Shoot Out from the week before is also a guaranteed starter if not already guaranteed from being in the previous season's Chase or qualified on the front row. That would make the Shoot Out a must watch too with a guaranteed starting spot at stake. Now if you could figure out how to simplify Daytona qualifying too that would be great. By the way, my car is almost ready for Daytona. Sincerely, Ed Shlabotnik

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  30. Anonymous12:52 PM

    Hey Dave how about a second qualifying effort for those not making the top 35 in this weeks qualifying. Lock in the top 35, have the remaining cars go back out for another qualifying run "go or go home" putting the fastest cars in the show and sent the rest packing.

    This would put on a show for the fans, and put some qualifying in qualifying.

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  31. anonymous internet genius12:56 PM

    no no no no no.

    top 25 on speed set by friday qualifying but no more than 3 per team. this brings in more owners.

    next 15 are set by saturday qualifying. no sitting on time posted on friday.

    two positions saved for top points positions.

    43 place set by....wait for it....FAN VOTE via twitter. this makes jeff gluck happy by getting junior on twitter.

    qualifying will remain the same at daytona with the sole exception being top 25 not top 35.

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  32. Larry Schneider12:59 PM

    Thats the ways it should be Dave.. Thats the way I learn to race in my hay day!!!

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  33. Back to the pre top 35 days of provisionals - without the past champs which allowed the Terry Labonte/Bill Elliot protected entry. Perfect solution in my opinion. Like the add in for the past week winner. If this years fields are anything like last for most races only 1 or 2 cars will go home, and those likely would have not beaten the other start n parks to get in under the old system anyway.

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  34. Anonymous1:11 PM

    i kinda like qualifying for the all star race. lets make every race a 'team sport' race and have a pit stop included. now that would give the fans something to watch!!

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  35. Great, great idea! You and saw a problem and came up with a simply elegant and simple solution. This is why you're the host and we're the listeners. Thank you future Hall of Famer!

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  36. Anonymous1:21 PM

    This is totally not related but does anybody find it funny that when time trials mattered they weren't on T.V. but they are now.
    OK on topic now I agree 100% on this Dave, but will the powers that be ever adapt a new qualifying system? What would Nascar do if they sent 3 of the 12 chase drivers home in the second chase race.
    This idea would go a long way in fixing the decline in ratings and people in the seats on Sunday. One of the most interesting series has anywhere from 40 60 cars showing up weekly and only 2 cars get a provisional ...its not the first 2 guys in points either its the highest finishing unqualified cars in the last chance qualifier that have been to 100% of the races that season. Could be 12 and 15 in points are in and the point leader is putting on the trailer. Some times that LCQ is the most exciting race of the night.

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  37. Anonymous1:22 PM

    @ Uncle Chas, if Joe Schmo has 3 points it means he was fast enough to get into 3 races. Ed Shlabotnik needs to find just a little more speed to run with the big dogs.
    And, unless it's real early in the season, Joe Schmo's 3 points probably aren't getting him in the race either.

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  38. In order for a Chase driver to miss the cut in a Chase race, 7 of the top 12 in points would have to time-trial 36th or worse. That's is BEYOND unlikely!

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    1. Anonymous2:54 PM

      while I agree it is highly unlikely, it could happen, 10 cars left in qualifying Your boy Ed uncorks the rear end going into 1, 8 of the next 9 cars are chase cars, and are considerably of the pace due to speedy dry or some left over fluid...just throwing it out there

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    2. Brando in WA3:09 PM

      That's my favorite part of your idea.... The safety net! It's put's qualifying back in qualifying but also protects a big name from missing the show for a mechanical breakdown. I dig the 'checks and balances'

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  39. It would be great. Probably will be implemented after enough time passes and Nascar can claim it as their idea.

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  40. How about changing it to the top 30 instead of the top 35, and add a bonus point for winning the pole?

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    1. GACK! No points for qualifying!!! ;)

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  41. As someone who has hated the top 35 rule since it was first announced, I think your suggestions would get the sport back on track and inject more excitement on race weekends.

    The only change I would make is that once the top 35 are locked in on speed, run a last chance qualifier for the remaining cars (assuming there are more than 43).

    That would give the high point guys two chances to make the race, their fans a chance to see them race, and if they are still on the outside looking in after the last chance qualifier, then they probably are too slow to be in the show.

    It's not that far-fetched, the Cup series back in the day used to (on occasion) run a lcq at tracks other than Daytona.

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  42. Anonymous2:24 PM

    Wow! Bristol & Martinsville qualifying would be interesting since the top 35 qual times vary as few as 2-3 tenths.

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  43. Start all entrants. Qualifying is fundamentally boring to begin with and is supposed to be about where you start, NOT whether you start.

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    1. That's not going to work very well when 50 cars show up at Martinsville. ;)

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  44. Anonymous2:41 PM

    way to go Dave

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  45. I like this idea. I have another question though. Why not make all qualifying a race like the duels for Daytona? Starting positions are drawn at random for a 25-50 lap shootout. Make it two races and split the field in half. The winner with the best lap time during their race gets the pole. The other winner would get the outside pole. The rest are placed in finishing order and best speed, i.e. the 2nd place finishers are 2nd row, inside is the faster of the two, 3rd place finishers are in the 3rd row, etc.

    Granted, it's more complicated than the current system or your system, but it would be entertaining. I doubt the drivers or owners would go for it though for fear of damaging cars.

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  46. Anonymous2:46 PM

    THATS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. THE FASTEST CAR RACE THE REST GO HOME AND WORK HARDER.

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  47. mrclause2:49 PM

    Good thinking except that it's still doing a top 35 thing. 42 cars qualify on speed and the current series champ gets the 43rd spot if needed, if not then the 43rd fastest gets the final spot. Or, all 43 qualify on speed with no freebies. KISS!

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  48. Anonymous2:58 PM

    sounds like a good idea to me

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  49. Anonymous3:50 PM

    With all due respect to the 'short tracks' and those with limited number of garage and pit stalls, I've forever held the opinion that all NASCAR licensed teams who submitted registration should be allowed to appear and compete (if they pass inspection).

    Granted, I have no solution for the physical restrictions arising from the garage / pit issues.

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  50. Anonymous4:07 PM

    Well, I posted elsewhere today about why owners need to have something like a guarantee to be in a race so that they have value for their teams that they can bring to sponsors or buyers. I do like Dave's qualifying idea, too, though I think it would only encourage more start-and-parkers to hop up superfast race trims on cars that'll race crappily or leave early during the actual race (only now they'll be up front where we can all see them drop out or drop to the rear before the start).

    There are top 35 OWNERS points and Top 35 DRIVERS points. Maybe a hybrid system is in order - something like Moody's qualifying system, only the CARS that are in the OWNERS Top-35 that don't get raced into the 35 guaranteed spots are the ones that get the next spots along with last week's winner. This way the owner value is protected if their driver crashes or blows up the engine in qualifying; it's pretty high odds that a driver on a Top-35 Owners team is going to be a fan favorite that you want to see get in, to speak to the issue Moody's idea addresses.

    If the Moody System is used though, I think though that the Daytona 500 should be a pure speed race via the two qualifying races, and then this can be the system from race 2 on, using the Top 35 owners points from the previous year to determine the last spots, up to race #5 of the season.

    Mike N.
    Bedford, NH

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  51. Dave, a great idea that will make it worth sitting in the stands on qualifing day.... This should be NASCAR's next great change...
    Daytona qualifying races would need to be unchanged though...

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  52. The Godfather has spoken, make it so.

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  53. I think that qualifying should be just like every other Friday night short track, if they don't make the top 43 in speed, they load up and go home. NO provisionals, NO guarantees. It'll put more pressure on ALL of the crews to make the fields to satisfy sponsors. Besides, other than the rare spin, or wreck, when was the last time Jimmie, Dale, Jeff G., or any of the others not be fast enough?

    Race fans do enjoy knowing their favorite driver will be starting on any given Sunday. We also know that race fans REALLY enjoy the way the short tracks run their shows. I think it's time to go back to basics.

    A second option, award points for qualifying position, not just the top ten, but for every spot. Make them really work for it. And still do away with any locked in spots. Again, this will pretty much make sure all the top guys that people root for make the field.

    Matt

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  54. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Everybody who likes this needs to send NASCAR an email and promote it. If enough fans speak they will listen, maybe not right a way but maybe one day.

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  55. Roger C.9:06 PM

    Godfather, you have been touting this idea ever since the top 35 came into play. This idea is as fantastic today as it was the first day you suggested it. Brian France and company need to grab this and run with it.

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  56. Dave, you make too much sense, something nascar lacks. All is well according to them. Will there even be 35 full time teams this year?

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  57. Sounds great!!!!!! I miss qualifying.

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  58. Whoa! Dave! Looks like you changed your mind! What happened to the ideas you posted a few weeks ago about qualifying!

    Dump the one or two lap single car runs. Put X number of cars (anywhere from 5 or 10 to the whole entry list) on the track for a the 2nd or 3rd practice session and use a 5 to 10 lap average for each car to determine starting order. The car with the fastest 5 or 10 consecutive laps starts first, the car with the second fastest consecutive laps starts second, and so on. And I want to see the fastest 43 cars race. No freebies based on points. If a car fails to go out during any of the practice sessions, the car goes home. If some catastrophic problem (engine failure, being caught in someone else's crash, etc.) causes the previous week's race winner to not qualify, I can see giving that driver a free pass, and I can see giving a Past Champion Provisional to the series defending Champ only for the first year after winning the championship, and again only in the case of a catastrophic problem not of the driver's own fault. The only 2 guaranteed starting positions would be the winner of the previous week's race and the reigning series champion, but only if the reason they can't quualify on speed is a problem not caused by the driver.

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  59. Moody, great idea. In the "REAL WORLD" the fastest cars get into the race. If a high dollar team doesn't make the race, sounds like they didn't work hard enough on their qualifying setup. "Thats Racing"

    I think having a 50 mile qualifying race for position 26-43 would get the best cars into the race and increase the TV ratings for qualifying broadcasts.

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  60. Great Ideas, but the hardest part is going to be pitching it to NASCAR... You know how it has to be their idea...

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  61. Interesting concept; actually qualifying the fastest cars for a race.

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  62. Simple & interesting. I believe it needs re-vamping & this is as good a place as any & better than most! Now talk the Big Wheels into it!
    Good Luck!

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  63. Anonymous3:54 AM

    I disagree with your system. Unfortunately, there are those that will come with a super fast car to qualify up front. Then they will still start and park or run like crap in the race. Your system will also allow some to only concentrate on race setup since they know they will be locked in to the race later. Thus, this will set them up for success in the race versus the guy that had to concentrate on qualifying setup. Remember, the race is what matters at the end of the day. Not qualifying. There are FEW tracks qualifying really matters. Even more so when you know you are locked in and you can just concentrate on race setup while everybody works on qual setup. Unfortunately the top 35 is here to stay to keep go homers from taking all the spots. On that note, the real problem is trying to support teams so they can continue to race, thus reducing the number of start and parks. How do you do that? Change the top 35 to the top 25. (If you look at 26-35 last year, they didnt even race the whole season anyhow.)The next ten drivers locked in are the top ten finishers from the week prior not already locked in by the top 25. Why does this matter? Let's use a driver like David Gilliland for example. He is good at Superspeedways. So he sells a sponsor on supporting him for Daytona. He goes and races there and does well. Next week, he is not locked in by virtue of the top 25, BUT he is locked in due to his great finishing position from Daytona. Now he sells that to a sponsor. Guaranteed starting spot. This creates a cyclic effect of more sponsorship which puts more cars in the race for the length of the race week after week. Also, there is a reason for cars to try and stay out longer just so they get that spot. Essentially, they are racing for a guaranteed spot the following week. Until you reduce the number of start and parkers, the top 35 mentality will never go away. A system has to be created to give the "back markers" reason to race and reason to receive sponsor dollars. I am not sure how to post my name, but it's Jason. I just chose anonymous because it was the only one I understood how to use.

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