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Enforcing current rules may solve qualifying problems

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JANUARY 31: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer speaks to the media during testing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on January 31, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

NASCAR qualifying on mile-and-a-half and larger tracks is broken and needs to be fixed. But what’s the answer? According to NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday, the only feasible answer may be a return to single car qualifying where drafting now comes into play with the 2019 aero package.

I wrote in this blog space late last week that the recent stance on moving cars to the back to start races if they fail to make laps in every round to which they advance or if they block someone else’s attempt to actually go out and make a lap was the answer. The way the new rules were implemented, or not, definitely wasn’t the answer, especially if you ask Clint Bowyer.

In case you missed it, Bowyer felt Ryan Newman blocked him by “clogging the middle,” one of NASCAR’s new no-nos.

This is stupid,” Bowyer said. “Did that look like clogging the middle to you? I damn-near had to back up to go. That’s not clogging the middle, apparently. We talked about clogging our conversation before qualifying. It says really clearly in lawyers’ terms how you can’t clog the middle, and I be damned, the first time it clogs the middle, they don’t call it. Discretionary.”

Okay, Newman’s No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford wasn’t sitting smack-dab in the middle lane during the first lap of qualifying, but when Newman got part of the way in one of the parked lines on pit road, he didn’t get remotely close to straight, and the rear of his car was at such an angle that it, at the very least, partially “clogged the middle.”

Apparently, NASCAR officials didn’t believe Newman “clogged the middle” enough to warrant a penalty. Sure, Newman started in the back Sunday, but that was because his car failed pre-race inspection twice, not because of any qualifying infraction.

At least everyone made a lap in all rounds they were supposed to at Texas, except for Alex Bowman, who wrecked in round one after posting a lap fast enough for round two, so I guess Texas qualifying was an improvement on last month’s Auto Club Speedway qualifying when none of the 12 drivers in the third and final round managed a last-round, timed lap. But it’s still not enough?

What’s the answer? Single-car qualifying? According to driver David Ragan suggests heat races. Ragan said on the “Manifold Destiny” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday night that he was against a return to single-car qualifying, suggesting heat races instead.

I’m not ready to throw in the proverbial towel on the current rules. But the rules need to be enforced, as in, “Clog the middle, start in the back.”

Jamie McMurray, now a broadcaster for NASCAR on FOX, said during Sunday’s pre-race broadcast that he thinks the current rules are good, as long as they’re enforced. I’m with McMurray. Just enforce the existing rules, and we may have a winner.

Right now, though, I’m glad for short-track racing at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond (Va.) Raceway the next couple of weeks. If I didn’t already love short tracks and those weren’t too of my favorite tracks, a break from possible qualifying drafting is a nice change of pace right now.

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Posted by on April 2, 2019. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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