NASCAR announced some changes for 2015 today and one of them caught my eye, but for the wrong reasons.
Tradition. It's an overused term in racing. Motorsports are always evolving, ever-changing, and I am one that usually embraces the coming of new eras. Looking over the 2015 changes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I am pleased with most of it.
However, there is one alteration that I'm not too thrilled about. The Daytona 500, like Indy, is a sacred race. It's one you must tread carefully with when considering changes, simply out of respect for the event. That being said, I feel that the trashing of the traditional qualifying format in favor of the new style of qualifying is a big mistake.
It was their day, and we've taken it from them
Since the birth of the speedway in 1959 when Cotton Owens posted a lap of 143.198mph in his '58 Pontiac, we've had single-car runs for NASCAR's 'crown jewel' event. It was a unique day that wasn't about the drivers, but the crew guys and engineers, those back at the shop who worked tirelessly to prepare this one car for this one moment. Pole day was their day. All of their hard work through the winter was about to be recognized on national TV in a showcase of who could build the fastest, most aerodynamic car.
RCR power prevailed in 2014, Hendrick's power-plants reigned supreme in 2013, and Roush the year prior. This was their day to be the stars, but now its just a game of who can catch the best draft at the best moment ... In other words, a crapshoot.
We have the duels, so why do we need this?
After 55 years, that day is now being overhauled and replaced by a battle of who can catch the best draft. 55 years of tradition is gone, just like that. We have our fill of action in the Duels ... There's no need for this in addition to those races. The new knock-out style of qualifying was being utilized in 35 of the 36 events this season, sans the 500. That's how it should be.
It's now a game of absolute chance
Earning pole position at Daytona was special, but not anymore. Any team can capture the pole for the Daytona 500 now. It's a game of chance and pure luck. You think that's an exaggeration? Let me remind you of the top four starters in this year's July race at Daytona ... David Gilliland, Reed Sorenson, Landon Cassill, and Bobby Labonte. Luck is always part of racing, but it shouldn't be the factor in 95% of the end result.
Not to mention that there's a very good chance that we will destroy race cars and for what? For a show? This is the Daytona 500.
What about the go-or-go homers? So a team can miss the biggest race of the year, an event that could make or break a smaller organization and define their future, simply because they couldn't find a buddy to draft with in qualifying?
This knock-out style of qualifying is entertaining and is enjoyable, but it has absolutely no place in the Daytona 500. There's some traditions you just don't mess with...