After watching NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., on Friday and then hearing the takes of various fellow-NASCAR reporters, I realized that I just don’t see things the way a lot of my colleagues do, at least not when it comes to the end of qualifying Friday.
In case you missed it, Denny Hamlin spun into the infield with about 39 seconds remaining in the third and final round of qualifying. Not only did Hamlin not post a timed lap in the round, his spin that ended qualifying early, resulted in Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne without a lap time for the round.
A lot of reporters and a lot of fans, for that matter, said after the session that the drivers failing to make laps brought it on themselves, stating that the drivers had plenty of time before Hamlin’s spin to make a lap, but they just sat on pit road, waiting until the last possible minute.
I have a couple of issues with how qualifying at Pocono ended and how the back of the top-12 was set after qualifying.
The argument mentioned above seems logical to me regarding the qualifying debacle at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway awhile back when there were drivers who failed to post a qualifying lap in a round. But at Talladega, drivers had the full advertised time of said round to get it done. That can’t honestly be said for round three at Pocono on Friday. That round was 39 seconds shorter than advertised. If drivers are told they have a certain amount of time, shouldn’t they have that amount of time.
That being said, I don’t think NASCAR should have simply gone back to green for 39 seconds after the track being cleared. Drivers can’t just pick up where they left off on the laps they were on when Hamlin spun. I say another couple or so minutes should’ve been given after the track was cleared for a get-up-to speed lap and then a timed lap for each driver.
Drivers, crew chiefs, etc., aren’t psychic. How were they supposed to know the round was going to be 39 seconds shorter than advertised? And by ending the round 39 seconds early, wasn’t NASCAR guilty of false advertising by not allowing time after Hamlin’s spin.
And on the subject of Friday’s qualifying session, I don’t agree with the way the final five spots in the top-12 were set. I do go along with the idea of using times from the previous round, to a point. What didn’t set well with me was that that method put Hamlin ahead of the other drivers who didn’t post laps in round three, even though he was the reason for the final round being cut short.
Since Hamlin brought out the caution, the other four should have been ordered eighth through 11th based on their second round speeds; then, Hamlin should have been 12th. When a car brings out a caution during a race, it doesn’t get the “Lucky Dog,” even if it’s the first car off the lead lap, because it was the one that brought out the caution. I think this qualifying session should’ve been handled the same way.
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