Multiple sources say the sanctioning body is approaching drivers, crew chiefs and team owners seeking feedback on a major change to the Sprint Cup qualifying next season.
In recent years, the sanctioning body has awarded guaranteed starting spots to the Top-35 teams in owner points. Teams outside the Top-35 – known as “Go Or Go Home” teams – are left to fight over the seven remaining spots at the back of the field, with the final spot reserved for a Past Champion. The current system ensures that the sport’s biggest stars compete every week, but it saps all the excitement from qualifying day, since the vast majority of teams arrive at the track with a guaranteed starting spot already in hand.
While well-meaning, NASCAR’s current qualifying procedure has neutered “Qualifying Day” into “Arranging Day.” Most weeks, very few fans turn out to watch. And those that do are treated to a two-hour advertisement for Sominex.
NASCAR’s proposed new system could change all that.
If approved, the fastest 38 cars in time trials will qualify for the main event next season, regardless of the point standings. Positions 39-42 will go to the four highest-ranking point drivers who failed to qualify on time, with the 43rd position still awarded via Past Champion’s Provisional.
Fans won’t have to worry about Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., or Kyle Busch missing the cut on race day, since in all but the most extreme cases, a quartet of point-based provisionals will safeguard high-ranking teams. Sponsors can continue to rest easy, knowing that their multi-million dollar investment will almost certainly be a part of the field every Sunday. Smaller teams will also benefit, since there will be a whopping 38 starting spots awarded on speed each week, rather than the current seven.
It’s a win/win/win situation, and it is long overdue.