Friday, February 24, 2012

COMMENTARY: Robby's Right, It's Time To End The Past Champion's Provisional

Robby Gordon raced his way into the Daytona 500 Thursday, rebounding from a tire rub at the start of his Gatorade Duel 150 qualifier to post an unlikely Top-5 finish and punch his ticket to the “Great American Race.”

Afterward, the always outspoken Gordon ignited a bit of a controversy by criticizing the rule that allowed former Sprint Cup Series champion Terry Labonte to qualify for the race, despite running just 12 laps in his Gatorade Duel before heading to the garage with what was generously termed a “vibration.”

"I think (the guaranteed starting spot) should be based on if you were with that team when you win the championship, not just because you win a championship,” said Gordon yesterday. “That takes a spot from teams that are working really hard to get in the Daytona 500. Rules are rules, and we made (the race) fair and square by being fast enough. I'm proud of my team and I'm proud to be in the Daytona 500."

Robby Gordon speaks out...
Labonte’s FasLane Racing, owned by former Roush Fenway Racing crew chief Frank Stoddard, races on a limited budget and came to Daytona without a backup car. A crash in yesterday’s Duel would prevent the team from competing in Sunday’s main event, so Stoddard wisely instructed his driver to make an early day of it and withdraw from the race, claiming a Past Champion’s Provisional good for the 43rd and final starting spot on Sunday. 

Labonte insisted he took advantage of the rules as they exist; doing the smart thing for both himself and his team. "It's the only car we’ve got," he said. "That wreck was right in front of us, and we just couldn't take a chance on wrecking it. We practiced enough in a pack and… the car's really good. 

“We just couldn't risk it."

Gordon wasn’t buying it, saying, "I've got a lot of respect for Terry. This is not a Terry Labonte thing, (but) there are only eight cars that make the Daytona 500. He takes one of those spots; now seven guys make the Daytona 500. Four make it in qualifying races, three make it on speed. It's just not right. Why take a free ride when the rest of us have to bust our butts to get into the 500?"

Gordon’s remarks touched a nerve with many fans, who feel – right or wrong – that there are too many guarantees in NASCAR these days. Counting Labonte, 36 drivers arrived in Daytona Beach last week knowing they were locked into the season’s most important event, leaving only seven spots to be filled by Saturday afternoon’s time-trial qualifying and 300 miles of heat racing yesterday. To many, qualifying for the Daytona 500 has lost its luster, reduced to little more than a week of busy work en route to a starting lineup that is pre-determined in a corporate board room, well in advance.

NASCAR is the only professional sport to reward athletes and teams for something they accomplished long ago. For all their past glory, the Green Bay Packers do not receive a guaranteed spot in the NFL playoffs. The New York Yankees own 27 World Series champions; a lofty statistic that earns them not a single advantage on Opening Day.

Perhaps it’s time for NASCAR to simply celebrate its past, rather than living in it. Eliminate the outdated Past Champion’s Provisional and begin awarding the final Daytona 500 starting spot to a team that excels today, rather than a driver who excelled a decade or more ago.  

 Photo Credit: Ashley Dickerson/ASP Inc/Icon SM


  1. Brandon in TN1:44 PM

    I agree with Robby. It's time for the provisional to go away.

  2. Mike Schultz (@SchultzHeatCool)1:46 PM

    I love Robby Gordon he says it how it is and I am glad you are on board! Keep up the Good work Dave I enjoy your show and incite!

  3. Anonymous1:49 PM

    Only Chase drivers from the previous year should get guaranteed starting spots. Everyones else, qualify on speed! After the Daytona 500 only Top Ten in points get guaranteed spots for each race. IMO!

  4. This is definitely a subject that needs to be addressed. Can't blame Labonte for taking advantage at all. Yet there are quality teams who probably had a better chance at winning the 500 who are headed home. Sad to say but NASCAR dropped the ball on this one long ago.

  5. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Fastest 43 are in , the rest watch from the stands on Sunday. And get rid of the Duels too. Just a lame excuse for banging up expensive rides.

    Doug from NJ

  6. I couldn't agree more!

  7. Anonymous2:00 PM

    The Past Champions Provisional and the Top 35 are ideas whose time has come,,,and gone.

    Have never been a big R Gordon fan, but absolutely respect what he is, a single car owner.

    Robert Y

  8. Anonymous2:02 PM

    There was a time when the past champions provisional was needed. Richard Petty was the star of the series and was struggling to make the field. NASCAR couldn't afford Richard not to run,but those days have passed. NASCAR is cutting it's nose off despite it's face. By allowing a past champion a free pass, you deny another driver and sponsor to race. How can grow new talent and sponsors if they are on the sidelines?

  9. Yawn! Makes for a predictable season. It's more about Benjamins ($$) than competitive racing. Top 35 are still guaranteed each week throughout the season too, right?

  10. Bill in Chicago2:38 PM

    Robby is right. It's time to retire the Richard Petty Rule. It made sense at the time, but it's time has passed.

  11. Anonymous2:46 PM

    I agree and then some. In every nascar race, ONLY the 43 fastest qualiriers hsould start the race, period.

    And dave, u should fix thois thing so facebook id is as choice.

  12. Anonymous2:58 PM

    I bet the car Terry Labonte is driving, prepared by Frank Stoddard, is a lap down, by lap 20. Parked in the garage by lap 100. Whats the point? World Series Champs, Super Bowl Champs, start over at square one, the next season. Drop the past Champions Provisional.Time for NASCAR to turn this page.

  13. How about changing the top 35 to the top 30. Would make things more interesting.

  14. I don't always agree with Robby, but this time he's on the money. Ten years from now, I don't want to see 5 time, 4 time or 3 time get a free pass if they're not competitive. Who wants to see them start 43rd and finish 43rd?

  15. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Just throw out the provisional postions and the top 35 rule and franchise the entire field. That's the direction it's going anyway.

  16. maddmike13:08 PM

    I agree with Robby, if they must have it, limit it to the year after you are the champ. No more 'rent a champ'.

  17. I don't agree with Mr Labonte often but he is dead on with this one. It keeps the younger hungrier drivers that should be there from racing. I would have no problem with the rule if it was just for the previous 1 or 2 years. We all love Terry but time to retire for good, he will probably be a start and park anyway.

  18. Anonymous6:30 PM

    It needs the black, otherwise GREAT new site. Tring to tell me my browser isn't compatible. IE 8 with Win 7 64 I don't think I have a problem.

    Doug from NJ

    1. I'm also running Win 7 64, but use Firefox with no issues. I believe Dave has commented before about problems with IE while suggesting Firefox as a better alternative.

  19. Anonymous8:27 PM

    New season- everyone starts on time @_badream

  20. steve_in_pa1:12 AM

    Never been a fan of the top 35 getting guaranteed spots. I understand why NASCAR would want all the fully-funded teams to run every week, but it makes it extremely difficult for new or underfunded teams to obtain sponsors if all that is seen of the team is 20 seconds of air time during qualifying. Past Champion's Provisional became a joke when DW had to use it to qualify almost every single week when his career was winding down. That's when it was changed to only being able to use it seven times a year. I think qualifying should be on speed for the fastest 40, no guarantees, with the last three spots provisionals that could be used by ANY team, kinda like the old days when you had second day qualifying to improve your position. Each team gets five provisionals to use at any point in the season, based only on current year points. That would ensure that everyone would have a fair shot at making the race, and in the off chance a team in the top 40 has a bad effort or wrecks, they at least can get in and keep the $ponsor$ happy. For Daytona, same scenario. Front row on speed, duals set the next 38 spots, based on finish in the duals, last 3 get in on speed. Just the ramblings of a long-time fan who has seen racing stray WAY too far from its roots.

  21. They say it was a sad day when the king had load up and go home. But he did and the race went on. Now the Wallace's have had to load up and go home and the race will go on. Waltrip will load up and goto the booth but the race will go on. If Johnson, Gordon, Busch, Stweart, Ect. Had go go ... The race would go on and you know what? The champion would be pretty darn interesting. The whole thing should go away.

    Murph from Idaho

  22. Dwayne in Memphis10:06 AM

    You're absolutely right! There's no place in the sport for a distinguished NASCAR champion to try and help new teams get into NASCAR!! Get these washed up old hacks out of the field and keep the money of NASCAR with the established teams of NOW. Why worry about the teams of tomorrow? Forget the past - it's of no value. Put them in the hall of fame and get them off the track...we all know how slow and aggravating old people are when they're driving, right? I mean, they probably specifically put a Right-turn blinker on Labonte's car JUST so he could run 200 laps with his right-turn signal on.

    I'm being OVERLY sarcastic to (I hope) prove a point. And yes, at some point it's needs to be earned on the know, the way the top 35 from LAST year expires after a few races, and it switches to THIS year's results. But booting a past champion simply because it MIGHT prevent Robby Gordon a chance to wreck half the field on any given week isn't the answer. New team with new driver vs new team with past champion - I'd give the edge to the champion.

    We're back to that ADHD mentality again. Let's make the races 20 laps, and who cares who did what last year...I can't pay that much attention. OH!! And as an added bonus, let's scrap this February to November season. Start at Daytona, crown the champion at the July Daytona race. Or don't even bother with a champion, just makes a series of individual races - that way there's NO reason to pay attention to even what happened last week.

    Sarcastic rant mode = off.

  23. @NOTwaltrip11:28 AM

    the past champ provisional mirrors the top 35 rule. it was introduced for good purposes but was exploited by the waltrips. no one has done the point swap deal quite like mikey. it is my belief that the older waltrip used the past champ provy many more times than petty. i have tried to find a past champ provy tally over the years but i do not think one is available.

  24. Anonymous5:35 PM

    You and Robby are right.

  25. Anonymous5:45 PM

    It is way past time to do away with the past champion's spot and the top 35 locked in rule. If a team is good, it will make the race, any race, on time or speed. No other sport quarrenties competitors a spot in their events and they certainly don't allow past champions to be automaticly entered. It's sad to see underfunded teams struggle week after week to make a race, and possibly fail, while some of the "top" teams cruise in with the attitude "well, we're locked in anyways so we're not trying to hard during qualifying". It's sad

  26. Something tells me that when Kurt Bush will have to rely on the PCP in the next year or three, NASCAR will do something about this.

  27. Anonymous9:37 AM

    I like Jack Rousch's mulligan idea, except the problem is that the season starts at a super speedway where a mulligan would be more likely to get used. How about one super speedway mulligan and one regular track mulligan per year?

    - Mike in NH

  28. Anonymous2:01 AM

    Auto racing is supposed to be a performance sport,and the starting field should be the 43 fastest cars that given weekend.This is the only sport that rewards for a subpar effort.You can buy another teams points and you automatically race. Can't stay on the lead lap don't worry you can get a free pass.And if you lag around 9-10th in the point standings 2/3 of the season you get the points reset in your favor.Not to mention you can start and park and collect a decent paycheck.Is it too much to ask for to see the best teams compete at their best each week?

  29. Anonymous11:32 AM

    ok,sure the past provisional should be dropped and racing your way into any race is the way to go but that also give guys like R.Gordon to get in the race and wreck the whole field just so he can win........R.Gordon is a has been so he is going to cry because he can't get into every race.Let's find a way to keep washed up drivers out but also make ALL drivers race there way into the race.