Qualifying is something that every motorsport has, and every motorsport has tinkered with over the years. NASCAR is no exception. However, has qualifying seemed to have lost its’ luster over the years in the most popular motorsport in the United States?
ElitePrecision 29 gives his thoughts on NASCAR qualifying, and why he feels it is not what it once was.
ElitePrecision 29 makes a huge point about qualifying not being the same because of the lack of horsepower in the cars nowadays. The lack of horsepower means slower speeds which means a less intriguing product.
This is something I have felt for years. I miss the days when it seemed like new track records were being set every other week. I miss the days of seeing cars go 200+ mph into turn one at Michigan, Auto Club, etc. It was a throwback to the original question of the automobile: How fast can it go?
Nowadays the cars are significantly slower with less off throttle time. When watching qualifying for the 2022 Daytona 500, I noticed that the cars were only doing 180 at their top speed. A far cry from almost 200 mph in the Gen-6 era.
Because of this, qualifying just is not as compelling. ElitePrecision 29 notes how there used to be big moments during broadcasts when new track records were hit and cars were seemingly doing the impossible. Those moments were created by the 900+ horsepower cars of the time.
ElitePrecision 29 also mentions the changes NASCAR made to qualifying beginning in 2014. He disliked the group qualifying format because of the spotlight being taken away from a driver.
There were definitely moments where group qualifying had its issues. Remember the debacle that was the 2015 Daytona 500 qualifying session and 2019 at California? However, there was a problem with the original single car qualifying, and that was that it took too long.
Who remembers the 2+ hour qualifying sessions at Daytona or Pocono where just one car was on track for two laps? That got dull after a while, so NASCAR at the time tried to spice it up some for good reason. Add to that the speeds were still high enough to where there was still compelling speeds on track.
Now NASCAR does a format where they have single car runs, but still two groups with the top five from each doing a final session for the pole. Add to that it is only one lap instead of two. ElitePrecison 29 feels that they could just go back to traditional single car qualifying from this, which I agree with with a slight modification.
Keep the single car format with only one lap for each car just like right now instead of the previous 2 lap session. Go back to one single session and give the cars some extra horsepower so that there can be more track records and more reason to get people to watch.
Formula One qualifying sessions are a spectacle, so is the Indianapolis 500 qualifying session. Why should NASCAR’s not be a spectacle either?
In the Stands
johnvanderventer8668 on YouTube says that he misses when there were more “Go or go home cars”.
nathanstroud2223 on YouTube believes that stage cautions have something to do with qualifying losing its’ spectacle.
nascarsteve on YouTube talks about the at-track fan experience of qualifying from this era.
Squaks2396 on YouTube talks specifically about the Gen-6 era of qualifying, where there were multiple track records set.
Qualifying is not the main show of the weekend, so NASCAR should not try to reinvent the wheel with it. However, many fans believe that it is just not as compelling as it once was.