Saturday, July 07, 2007

Qualifying Dilemma Requires Starting All Entries

The washout of Firecracker 400 qualifying after 39 of over 50 entries had run laps shuffled the starting lineup and sent home over half a dozen entries, including Boris Said, who appeared to have won the pole for the second straight Firecracker 400. The result of this washout brought forth a lengthy examination of the problem.

Now one can hardly feel sorry for Boris Said, as he is a fraud when it comes to NASCAR - he's driven in the Truck Series, BGN, and Winston Cup and has next to nothing to show for it and a near-complete lack of ability to handle superspeedways. One also has mixed feelings that Jeremy Mayfield fails to race in this race, for while Mayfield has shown great ability over the years he is also a notorious cancer in the garage of whatever team he's with - it helped cost him his gig at Penske Racing and later cost him his deal with Ray Evernham.

"We put so much work into this car," Said pined afterward. Uh, what about everyone else - you think they didn't put so much effort as well? Keep in mind that Said is racing a sixth Roush-Fenway entry, which means he's already got a leg up on a lot of other entries in the field.

Some claim that only the fastest 43 qualifiers should make the field, but this ignores that there is need for some level of protection of the series regulars, plus starting only the fastest 43 means teams will spend still more effort on qualifying instead of race setups - as it is they waste far too much effort on qualifying already.

The sport has painted itself into the corner that it can no longer afford to send any entry home after qualifying. The entries in a modern NASCAR field all have sponsors, which NASCAR needs for revenue, and those entries often have legitimate fan bases - this is not like 30 years ago when Neil Castles or Joe Frasson could be sent home after qualifying and no one cared. Moreover with only a few exceptions, the entries in modern NASCAR all have the talent to win and thus add new blood to the sport's competitive dynamic or reinfuse some veteran blood to that same dynamic.

With all the controversies about provisionals etc., the only fair way to do it is - start all entries. This way the fans and more importantly the sponsors and manufacturers all know that entries will be in the field on Sunday; it also takes away incentive to waste so much money on qualifying.

The objection to starting all entries usually begins with that the tracks do not have enough pit stalls for over 43 cars. To this one can point out that multicar teamns like Hendrick can share pits, though in the end tracks will need to lengthen their pit roads - given that infield-area reconstructions are periodic for the sport's racetracks, it seems that lengthening pit roads is inevitable anyway.

There is also an sbsurd objection to the effect that starting all entries somehow detracts from the sport's competitiveness. How this occurs is baffling, since qualifying isn't supposed to determine whether you start to begin with - it's supposed to determine where you start.

The only way qualifying could ever justify itself as legitimate competition is under a scenario where literally every single finisher in the top-twelve in points fails to qualify for at least two races. Since such a scenario is supremely unlikely, objections to starting all entries ultimately are meaningless.

So stop sending teams home after qualifying. Start all entries.

2 comments:

KS_Redneck said...

"Now one can hardly feel sorry for Boris Said, as he is a fraud when it comes to NASCAR - he's driven in the Truck Series, BGN, and Winston Cup and has next to nothing to show for it and a near-complete lack of ability to handle superspeedways."
Excuse me?!? A FRAUD? Granted, Boris has not had a plethora of success, but he has had some shining moments. Remember last years July Daytona race, where he took the pole and finished 4th? Not bad for someone who hasn't had an opportunity to compete on a regular basis. I would love to see someone put Boris in a full time ride, he has the talent. Maybe a Ginn or Haas/CNC?

Monkeesfan said...

Said's Daytona finish was entirely due to a late pit call to stay out - the yellows then flew right for him to finish high. He has no talent for superspeedways.