NASCAR has tried different ways to make qualifying interesting in recent years with the idea of group qualifying. That is, up until the 2015 Daytona 500 when everyone was sitting on pit road for most of the time until someone decided to come out first. The reason no one drove out first is that it was explained during the broadcast that the first one out wouldn’t get the faster speed. I think I may know a way that can make qualifying more interesting to the fans, but in order to do this, we will also cover the topic of race weekends.
Race weekends aren’t like what they used to be in terms of attendance. I think NASCAR needs to step away from the “three races a weekend” idea, except for maybe speed weeks. Now, for example, let’s take Kentucky Speedway. Maybe in June, you have a weekend for the Xfinity Series race, in July your Cup race, and in September the Truck Series. The event is focused on one series for that weekend, which can hopefully draw more attendance for the lower series. You noticed how this past weekend when the Camping World Truck Series raced at Gateway, that the crowd was bigger than usual for truck crowds. Despite sharing that weekend with ARCA, which will become a part of NASCAR in 2020, people showed up because it was focused a lot on the truck series. We can talk about ARCA and what NASCAR should do, but we will save that for another time.
One argument fans may have is that without stars like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano, not as many people come out. That may be somewhat true, but now with the track hosting the one event, this can help create new identities in NASCAR. As in the Truck race at Gateway, you have the veterans such as Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter being promoted, as well as the young guns such as Justin Haley, Noah Gragson or Ben Rhodes. Same with Xfinity and Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, and Matt Tifft. In this case, some smaller teams can get their names out more with it being focused on the one event.
Now onto qualifying. What is the purpose of having these kinds of events setup the way they are? Remember how the Daytona 500 runs the Duel 150’s on the Thursday before the Daytona 500? What if NASCAR came in the late afternoon on Thursday, had one big practice session Friday morning, and then instead of qualifying, ran two Duel-like races to set the field that same day in order to build more excitement for the fans. No stages. Just two quick races. Maybe for Kentucky run 40 to 50 laps each. Not only to set the field but bonus points for possibly the top 5 that go towards the playoffs. This will give more meaning to qualifying and can bring a more electric atmosphere to the NASCAR track.
There are some cons to this, however, such as more use of a backup car if someone wrecks. Some may argue that it’s just another gimmick. I would say test this for a season and see how it goes. I do believe, especially with the millennials, that we need to find a way for anyone to come out and go, ‘Wow that qualifying race was pretty fun! I wonder what will be in store for the race tomorrow?’ The events being focused on one series, I believe, will bring out more people to the races. For example, I noticed that last year when I went to the Quaker State 400 and the Xfinity race, which got rained out and moved to the same afternoon as the Cup race, hardly anyone was at the Xfinity race, but for the Cup race the place was nearly packed. The track even allowed those with Cup tickets in, too. That Xfinity race had Kyle Busch (who won), Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick in it. I think if, for instance, the Trucks were at Gateway, Xfinity at Iowa, and Cup at Kentucky on the same weekend, more people could be interested in seeing the different events. Another issue would potentially be television viewing, but again we can watch races now on our laptops, tablets, and phones, so that may not be as bad as an issue, compared to say if this was being talked about in 2005.
What do you guys think? Is this a good idea or a bad idea? Should we have shorter weekends for NASCAR events and have the different series on different tracks? How can we make NASCAR more exciting in other ways? Let’s start a discussion.