NASCAR Richmond 2013 Notebook: Abolish the random qualifying order and 'changing lane' rules

Tom Pennington

Friday's NASCAR track activity produced a great Nationwide Series race but another lackluster qualifying session. The random draw qualifying order plus the penalty that dropped Trevor Bayne out of the top-10 should be addressed after this weekend.

Brad Keselowski won Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway, surviving a series of late-race restarts over Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. It was a dramatic event that has likely set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

The Toyotacare 250 had everything a short track fan wants including a multi-car accident between several championship contenders, a post-race scuffle between Brian Scott and Nelson Piquet Jr. and several of the top stars fighting for the win.

The Sprint Cup Series is already in the midst of one of the most dramatic seasons of recent memory, a trend that is sure to continue as the tour goes short trackin' in Virginia on Saturday night.

First some notes and opinions from Friday night's track action.

Abolish the ‘Lane Change Before the Start/Finish line' rule

Trevor Bayne was penalized late during Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Richmond for changing lanes prior to crossing the start/finish line on a lap 202 restart.

It was at best a borderline call at for a rule that doesn't have much of an application in my opinion. While not entirely comparable, the IndyCar Series allows for passing (and lane changes) throughout the field as soon as the green flag drops - no need to cross the line first.

That should be the case in NASCAR as well. Too many races have been decided on a rule that doesn't seemingly have much of a purpose. The most notable of these occurrences was the 2011 Daytona 500 where a penalty to David Ragan took him out of contention and ironically set-up Bayne's 500 triumph.

The rule gives and takes away equally -- but there really isn't much of a reason for it so I hope additional discussion over it is had in the future.

Sprint Cup Qualifying order

Now that we've had time to adjust to the new qualifying procedure for the Sprint Cup Series, I have to give it a less than satisfactory grade.

When NASCAR dropped the top-35 rule prior to the start of the season it also revamped the qualifying format with a random draw to decide qualifying order rather than the slowest-to-quickest in first practice which had been the procedure since 2011.

While it was universally agreed that the top-35 rule was unhealthy and had to go, the random draw has made for typically lackluster qualifying sessions over the first two months.

The most fascinating aspect of qualifying the past few seasons was sending the fastest cars from practice out last. While some teams sandbagged at certain tracks to gain an advantage, the system more-or-less worked to provide maximum drama throughout the session.

The fastest time was continually set and challenged in this format and gradually built a sense of anticipation. That was not the case on Friday at Richmond when Matt Kenseth set the quickest time early in the session and set a time that ultimately proved to be unbeatable.

NASCAR has shown a willingness to spruce up Sprint Cup qualifying this week by introducing group qualifying for road courses. Take that a step further and make it a knockout session and bring back the ordered qualifying session from years past and we'll really have something to talk about on Fridays.

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