Welp, so much for that idea!

The instant all 12 cars failed to take the green flag of Friday’s final qualifying round at Fontana was the same moment this qualifying format died.

Austin Dillon won perhaps the most unique pole in NASCAR history by posting a speed of 0.00 mph in the final round of qualifying, beating everyone else based on his Round 2 time because not a single driver made an official lap in the completed session.

Just 39 days ago, NASCAR’s Scott Miller said the sanctioning body would retain group qualifying for this season — despite the probability of cars drafting at intermediate tracks.

That went against what NASCAR does with the Truck Series, where single-car qualifying is required on tracks where the drivers can draft. But when it came to the Cup Series, Miller had said, “We’re in show business.”

It was a fun and optimistic thought that lasted until Friday — when the show turned into a “mockery,” as Miller put it. Suddenly, that was the end of the current qualifying procedures.

“We hoped things would go better than that,” Miller said. “Obviously, we have a little work to do on our part to get a better format so things like that can’t happen. We certainly want to provide our fans with what they deserve, and we — and the teams — didn’t do a very good job of that today. So we’re certainly disappointed.”

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other obvious solutions out there. Drivers had more shoulder shrugs than suggestions when asked what NASCAR should do now.

Whether it’s one big round of group qualifying or a hybrid solution (two group rounds plus a single-car round), there’s no way to avoid drafting when cars are allowed to qualify at the same time.

“I don’t know what else you can do, because the lead car is at such a disadvantage in qualifying,” Denny Hamlin said. “You don’t want to be first (in the draft) — and when you don’t want to be first, it will be a waiting game no matter what.”

But for the most part, the drivers seemed to recognize change was coming — particularly after they heard boos from the stands after their almost-laps.

“I’ve seen it in other sports, but I’ve never seen it in ours: We just got booed,” a visibly discouraged Clint Bowyer said. “It’s disappointing for everybody involved. I saw this coming three weeks ago; I think we all did.

“I know we’re capable as an industry of putting on a better show than that and I know they’ll make the right provisions to make that correct. Unfortunately, it’s going to take something like that to make that adjustment.”

The adjustment — in whatever form — will likely come by Texas in two weeks (drivers can’t draft at Martinsville next week). But the solution is yet to be determined.

“We’ve been working on a few other things, but we really don’t want to go to back to single-car qualifying,” Miller said. “There may not be another way. But we want to try to exhaust every possibility before we do that, because it’s just not as fun, not as intriguing of a show as the group situation.”

Jimmie Johnson acknowledged single-car qualifying isn’t as entertaining, but said “we’ll have to pick from the lesser of two evils in the end” — though which one is lesser option remains unclear.

Other opinions ranged from being fine with the current format (“I don’t see any problem with it; it’s drama, baby,” Kyle Busch said, perhaps sarcastically) to calling for a return to tradition (“I am still a big fan of single-car qualifying. That is the way qualifying should be,” Ryan Newman said).

Regardless of the solution, there was a sense of disappointment for the fans in attendance who made their opinions known.

“I looked up there in the stands after we got out of our cars and I felt bad for those people, because they paid money to come watch us qualify,” Aric Almirola said. “And they didn’t even get to see us post a lap in the final round.”

Said Kevin Harvick: “I think the crowd booing tells the story.”


Related: My now-ice-cold take from Las Vegas in favor of this format

 

16 Replies to “Welp, so much for that idea!”

  1. I just posted this reply to Jeff Gordon.

    “No more qualifying, no real benefit other than pit stall & pole award. Take practice time averages and that’s how they line up. Then do drawing for pit stalls. That would be heck of a lot more exciting!”

  2. Heat races, like they have in the dirt track series? It could work. It would be exciting, and you would get a much better idea of what you had before the big event Sunday.

  3. I know I sure don’t have an answer but I do know what we’ve had this year sure ain’t it. I’m guessing everyone is blaming the new package and I guess they would be right. But I also put some of the blame on the CC”s. They’re sitting there counting down to the last second, waiting-waiting….. Well even Larry Mac said they would need 50 sec. By the time they started leaving they only had 40 some odd seconds. So why didn’t one of the CC’s or even a driver, maybe like Clint Bowyer say to heck with this!!! Like Kurt in round 2, at least he tried. If someone had of did that they would have won the poll.

  4. Practice times count for pole. at least that way you get a semblance of who is really the fastest. Or go back to single car quals. Certainly can’t be worse than this farce!

  5. Single car qualifying or drivers and crew chiefs just accepting going out first knowing cars behind will get a better draft so the fans who paid money, probably $30 for a ticket to watch qualifying can enjoy it. Or fine each team $50,000 that doesn’t post a time in a session.

  6. It is show business. Qualifying is the start of the weekend. NASCAR needs to set rules and drivers need to drive under those rules. Maybe instead of a bunch of millionaidrivers we need younger, hungry drivers that will abidethe by rules. Fans drive the sport.. We pay for the tickets, merchandise and higher cable tiers to watch. We are not going to do that when drivers do what the hell they want. If you make final round and don’t run then you go to the back to start. Tired of these 1%ers thinking they rule the sport. I am dedicated fan but I can watch movies instead if I need to. Buck up NASCAR.

  7. Keep the same format with a stipulation, be on the track at qualifying speed and maintain speed within one minute of the session starting or start the race 5 laps down

  8. This is an easy fix first round is 3 min. Second round is 2 min and final round 1 min drivers won’t have time to just sit at the end of pit road and if you don’t post a time in any round you start tail and have last pick of pit stalls. This will motivate everyone to post a time or get dnq’ed.

  9. Personally, I really enjoy single car qualifying. If time is an issue, look no further than the wolrd of outlaws. They do a great job of keeping time trials moving by sending one car right after another. As far as tv, you could present it with the car on track chasing the ghost car of the current polesitter. That adds a layer of entertainment and suspense if you ask me. I was never much of a can of group qualifying even before this package, and I really hope this opens a conversation to go back to single car

  10. ….hmmm, lets see…How do we fix our “show business” when it comes to qualifying?…..

    How about this solution gang? Lets do it the way we did it when NASCAR actually HAD AN AUDIENCE???

    Single car qualifying seemed to work fine THEN……

  11. I would love to see either single car qualifying with cars spaced by NASCAR at 2 per lap on short tracks, 4 on intermediate and super speedways. Or…One hour of practice with qualifying by 10 lap average.

    In either case, sucks to be the people in the stands, although they only missed one minute of qualifying.

  12. I missed the part where qualifying has to be “made for TV” or part of “show business”…..I thought that was what the race was for.

    I agree with others….let’s use practice times to set the field, then send ’em off on Sunday….

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