Jefferson, GA - One of the more unique features of the World Crown 300 was that it featured European style qualifying to set the field.
That essentially means a rotating bracket in which cars qualify on the track at the same time in a visual that resembles practice but will count the field just as a single-car qualifying session would.
NASCAR has a few lessons to be learned from this format. Several drivers, including Jeff Gordon at Talladega in 2011, have criticized the sanctioning body's field-setting procedure. I'm not advocating a European style qualifying procedure for the full 36-race schedule, but it has some value for events including the Sprint All-Star Race, Bud Shootout and perhaps the experimental Camping World Truck Series.
Remember that the Truck Series was used as the guinea pig for several Series advances, including the double-file restart, lucky dog rule, and the green-white-checkered finish.
The reasons to do this are two-fold.
Single-car qualifying procedures just don't move the needle. It feels very procedural and there isn't much drama. Having the fastest cars in practice go out last have increased the excitement level but even that isn't making a difference in the stands or in television ratings.
I'm also advocating a bonus point for qualifying on the pole, a tactic adopted from the IndyCar Series. While IndyCar traditionalists still have reservations about stealing from NASCAR (the lucky dog rule), I have no such pride issues. I know a good idea when I see it and I've seen several over the past few years.
So in review, here's what I propose for NASCAR qualifying, at least in All-Star races or the Truck Series on an experimental basis.
- Replace the second practice session (commonly called Happy Hour) with a two-group rotating European style qualifying session. The fastest 10 cars, five from each group advance to one final 15-minute session which will be used to set the field.
- Award the pole-sitter with a championship bonus point. This provides incentive to really go after it in qualifying and perhaps make the difference between making the Chase or missing it by inches.
Is the system perfect? Absolutely not. It's an experiment but innovation is what NASCAR was founded on, and what it's sorely missing in 2012. Race weekends blend together and it's ultimately time to shake things up.
So now it's up to you. Tell me how crazy I am in the comments section; or perhaps what a brilliantly handsome innovator I am. Either way, leave a comment.