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O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

Dustin Off the Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

Ah, good ole Texas, the Lone Star State.  Where everything is always bigger, from the pre-race show, to the football stadium, to even some of the famous people that have called this place home.  I mean, CBS got many spectacular years thanks to Dan Rather, and there’s no way country music fans can talk Texas without speaking of George Strait.

For all you wrestling fans, we all know the most famous man to lace up his boots and step into a ring, since he came from Victoria, Texas, and came with a rattlesnake’s bite.  Everything’s bigger in Texas, and Stone Cold Steve Austin can prove that.

But yet all the talk heading into this week wasn’t about racing, but just about qualifying.  New procedures were in place to try and stop the games played at California.

What happened…even more games, and more frustration.  I know I have to remain objective as a journalist, because that’s what the job is about.  I cannot become biased because of what has been seen, said or wrote before me.  But, even as a writer, and maybe I am speaking for some of my fellow journalists in the sport that have to witness this now what has been a weekly basis, this has gone from being odd to now flat out ridiculous.

Qualifying has become a big game of keep away, but when this game is played, instead of keeping one object from one person, it’s everyone keeping everyone from getting in a solid lap.

NASCAR said that cars that pull out of their stall but opt to wait, they have to be in a certain area.  Others have to be in a separate line that are going out right away.  Instead, we had two solid lines on pit road, and drivers were told to “not clog the middle.”  Well a few certainly did, and Clint Bowyer made that crystal clear in his interview, although in his own comical way to try and keep things light-hearted.  Yet despite his way of talking about it, he made a valuable point…it was a fail of epic proportions.

Yes, in NASCAR’s attempt to alleviate the qualifying woes, it made them worse.

I am not a fan of single-car qualifying, but let’s be honest, when we do a different style qualifying at Daytona and Talladega, it’s not exactly single-car on the track.  When one car reaches a certain point on the track, officials send another one out so that they are not interrupting an attempt.  At Talladega you could have four cars on track at once and still be able to have each one get in a lap, and some TV time to showcase sponsors, and everyone is happy.

At these kind of tracks, it’s hard to do because some are bigger than others, and you may only get to see three cars on track at most, excluding short tracks and road courses.

However, the simple solution to this problem is this:  if a car leaves it’s pit stall, it MUST go on track.  No one wants to have a 10-minute qualifying session of where teams are sitting around for 80 percent of the time, then spend two minutes trying to get onto the track for a legal lap.  It’s ridiculous, and honestly getting frustrating for everyone involved because it means you’re not trying to make a lap, but rather make sure others don’t.

At this point, with the exception of road courses, short tracks and the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, this is how qualifying should be done.  Have one official for every 3-4 cars, depending on the track.  Before qualifying begins, drivers are to be strapped in and ready to start their cars when signaled.  An official then directs the first car onto the track to begin their lap.  To use Texas as an example, because of how quickly teams can get through the gears, once the first car is at the backstretch, send the next one out, and repeat for the next car.  Drivers can then see how much time is given between and they can follow suit thanks to their own spotters.

NASCAR needs to get control of qualifying, and quickly, because no fans are wanting to sit in the stands during it, and no one wants to spend time watching it.  It’s at the point where single-car qualifying could be on the table again, sad but true.

We all know who will be strong in race setup, like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and others.  But, we’re not even talking about the race itself, but just qualifying.  Sounds a lot like Allen Iverson’s infamous “We talking about practice” line, but with engines instead of a ball.

Just one week I don’t wanna be talking about qualifying, but instead the actual event.  Guess that’s got to wait for another week.

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