Humpy Wheeler, president of The Wheeler Company and former president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, offered his thoughts on NASCAR's recent announcement it was looking at changing its Top 35 rule in qualifying. He also offered his own idea to make qualifying relevant again.
"It is interesting that NASCAR is looking at qualifying and they certainly should. Up until a decade ago qualifying at many tracks was a big deal. Years ago qualifying took place as early as Wednesday to bolster ticket sales. That was eliminated and most places it was shoved to Friday and sometimes Saturday. It has become a nonentity for a track as far as revenue is concerned," he said.
"Just 15 years ago at the height we sold more than 30-40,000 tickets for the pole. We ran four laps and made a big deal out of it and then had a race afterwards. It gave a lot of less fortunate race fans a chance to go the speedway because ticket prices were low. There was also a lot of cheap betting on the pole. Indy 500 pole day drew in excess of 100,000. Last May there were probably less than a tenth of that. Track operators and the sanctioning bodies let the competitors talk them into late qualifying and one lap and guaranteed starting positions. This took all the drama out of it.
"Can it become what it once was? Like many things in racing we have lost, it will take a lot of creativity and work…along with time to ever bring it back. What we should do is qualify in four 15 minute sessions. Ten cars are given 15 minutes to hit the track. They can all go out together or by themselves. Fastest car wins the session. At the end of the four sessions let the four fastest either race each other four laps or qualify again to determine the pole. Let 'em race…that would bring it back!"