Qualifying is an important part of NASCAR. Besides determining where a team starts on any given race weekend, qualifying has several deeper meanings that can make or break a race.
NASCAR has messed around with every single thing they can think of (so far) that can spice up qualifying a little bit. However, for some reason, it just hasn’t seemed to work. Let’s not go through the history of the qualifying procedure though — let’s get right to the way things are now and what NASCAR can do to make fans more excited to see it.
As of now, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a random qualifying draw. It isn’t too bad and does spice things up a bit. However, with just two laps in qualifying, teams don’t have to put as much emphasis on practice before qualifying begins. Well, at least for their qualifying setup, which makes things confusing for fans to recognize which drivers are faster on race weekend.
Of course, NASCAR and the teams themselves can’t afford to have qualifying races on a weekly basis. Though it’ll probably spice things up a ton, it would be way too costly for everyone involved.
There’s one solution that could work though. On road courses, NASCAR implemented a new rule where a group of four cars went on the track at the same time. It was based on practice speeds, and the fastest car of the group was the first one out.
Though it isn’t the most ideal scenario, at least for NASCAR during an era where improving safety and rules are the priority, it could certainly make competition stronger.
Think about it. Take a track like Indianapolis where qualifying is early in the day. It would force teams to focus on practice more, making them attempt to get the advantage they need once they go to qualify. Usually at Indianapolis, the pole winner goes out early in qualifying.
This system could also save time for qualifying, giving teams more time to prepare for the race, and it also gives NASCAR more time to inspect cars before final practice (besides impound races).
Yet, NASCAR can’t bring this system up to the Sprint Cup Series without seeing its reception from fans. Fans seemed to like it at the road courses. The perfect way to try it out is with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series, preferably the latter.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series seems to have a secure qualifying procedure. Cars go out in reverse order from practice. It makes fans want to keep watching qualifying throughout the whole broadcast, preparing to watch several different pole sitters throughout qualifying.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series can always use an improvement though. They use the same thing as the Truck Series, but it doesn’t agree with the fans. Maybe implementing a new system could help NASCAR understand what fans want to see.
The sport could always implement the IZOD INDY Series style of qualifying, which is to have a 3-4 lap qualifying session and average out all three laps. It’s as simple as can be: the fastest average gets the top spot.
They should also consider giving an extra bonus point or two for qualifying on the front row. It’ll give the sport some extra confidence as a sanctioning body, and it’ll give teams an extra reason to focus on qualifying well.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.