NASCAR says Say Goodbye to the Top-35 Rule

By Chris Creighton
10/9/2012 | Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

NASCAR has announced changes in next year’s qualifying format in all three of its major divisions; Sprint Cup , Nationwide and Camping World Series. This change in format will bring an end to the infamous Top 35 rule.

NASCAR would like teams to show more focus on speed and feels that certain teams may have been taking for granted the ability to lock your car in the show based on owner points instead of how fast you go.

With the uprising in Start & Park teams, NASCAR was forced to make changes in the current format to keep the level of competition more suitable for the smaller teams that really want to race. Certain teams have even been publically accused of taking advantage of the fairly large purses in the Sprint Cup Series by bringing cars and equipment to the track with zero interest in actually racing.

The phrase “Start & Park” earned its name because lower budget teams will qualify their race car, but when the race starts, they ride around a couple of laps before parking it in the garage. NASCAR will now give more opportunity to team’s that are trying to improve their organization by requiring teams to focus more on speed and using provisional positions that they earn throughout the season.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, the series will move to a 36-6-1 format where the fastest 36 cars will make the race on speed.
The next six highest ranking cars in owners points that have not already earned a starting position through qualifying and who have entered the event by the posted entry deadline will also make the field.

The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent eligible past champion driver. If there is no eligible past champion driver, then a seventh car will make the field based upon owners’ points.
Provisional positions in the 36-6-1 format will be lined up by owners’ points, not speed.

Since 2005, the top 35 cars in owners’ points were guaranteed a spot in the field. Now, only a maximum of seven cars will be locked into a given race.

“This is a big win for our fans,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “They’ll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying.”

In 2013, the qualifying order for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events will return to a random draw. However, in the event qualifying is canceled due to rain, the field will be set per the rule book and the starting lineup will continue to be determined by practice speeds.

Additionally, provisional positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be based upon the previous year’s owner points for the first three races, as opposed to the first five races in previous years for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and four races for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

This could mean that smaller teams would not be as likely to try and sell the previous year’s owner points to bigger expanding multi-car teams. Traditionally, smaller budget teams supplied larger teams with a guaranteed starting position in the Daytona 500 by selling off their previous years points based off the Top 35 rule. Smaller teams would either get cash or an alliance from a larger teams with equipment, and bigger teams could secure sponsors with a locked in race car.

Also, In an effort to strengthen the ownership base up and create a sense of urgency among teams to make races, the maximum starting field for the NASCAR Nationwide Series will be set at 40, as opposed to the 43-car field in previous years.A maximum NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting field will remain at 43 cars while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will hold steady at 36.

Chris Creighton is a member of the NASCAR media and a writer for You can follow me on Twitter @FlagofCaution for all the latest updates and news in the racing community.

You May Also Like