The final hours of qualifying yesterday and today produced some great drama. The top spot changed hands several times, and one of the smaller teams ended up with the fastest speed. The hours before that were as dull as the last hour was thrilling. The current qualifying procedure is the problem. First, with only thirty -three cars there is no intrigue as to who will make the field. Second, having to qualify on two days to set a position is redundant and meaningless. Third, too many points are available for qualifying. I have a proposal to change qualifying and add some life to both days.
The problem of car count is most likely going to be the biggest issue for a while. Until a third engine manufacturer comes on board, I don’t see an increase in car on the grid. Even then, we could just see a redistribution of the current field split among three engines rather than two. My proposal assumes just thirty-three entries.
For my new procedure, I’m looking no further than the street/road course qualification process. Yes, knockout qualifying with an Indy twist. Keep the four lap runs. Qualify in groups. Keep the Fast Nine. Here is how my plan works.
Based on Fast Friday speeds, divide the field into three groups of eleven. the three groups by speed rank:
Group 1: 1,4,7,10,13, 16, 19, 22,25,28, 31
Group 2: 2,5,8,11,14,1,7,20, 23, 26, 29, 32
Group 3: 3,6,9,12,15, 18,21,24,27,30,33.
Group 3 goes first, then group 2 and finally group 1.
Each group has two hours. Each car may make more than one run after everyone has had a turn. The fastest six advance to the next round. The rest of the group is assigned grid positions accordingly. First qualifying group 29-33, second group 24-28, third group 19-23.
That is the Saturday program. As yesterday showed, six o’clock is not necessarily when qualifying needs to stop.
Sunday’s schedule , after practice sessions for cars still eligible for the pole and for those eliminated Saturday, is a three hour session to determine the fastest nine qualifiers. The slowest nine get grid spots 10-18. After a one hour break, the Fast Nine compete using the current format.
Points are still awarded, but not in great numbers. The fastest in each first round group gets one point. The fastest in the round of eighteen gets one point. The pole winner gets two points. While it’s easy for me to spend others people’s money, substantial cash rewards need to be paid out for each round as well.
Qualifying procedures have changed several times over the years. It seems many changes have come rapidly in the last decade or so. I believe my proposal offers a bit more excitement to the current format. I’m very interested in hearing t your thoughts about this idea and if you have other plans you’d like to share.
I plan several posts this week. Tomorrow, changes I’ve seen at the speedway over 6 decades, a post about my favorite speedway cars, and of course my fearless and probably very inaccurate race predictions.