Sunday, July 29, 2012

Humpy Wheeler's qualifying fix: Let 'em race!

   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!"

Keselowski's take on Sadler's NASCAR penalty

   Elliott Sadler grabbed the lead on a late-race restart in Saturday's inaugural Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis but NASCAR soon black-flagged him for jumping the restart. His chance at the win and another $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus disappeared. As did most of his lead in the series standings over teammate Austin Dillon.

   Brad Keselowski was the race leader on that restart. He spun his tires on the restart and was getting a push from behind by Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. and Sadler crossed the line before he did.

   Keselowski's take on the incident:

   “It happened really fast and I don’t have a complete picture of what happened. So, it’s hard for me to make a statement about it. I can tell you my perception of it was I got a push from Sam and it was a little more than I could take. And certainly I wasn’t going full-throttle but I was not in the zone when Elliott (Sadler) took off. It appeared that Elliott got a push from behind as well and maybe he just couldn’t slow down, I don’t know. I don’t know how it all played out," he said. 

   "I think NASCAR has made it a point to say that they’re not going to measure down to a millimeter on who beats who to the restart line. They just want it to be close and fair. It was obvious that Elliott beat us by more than that. That’s NASCAR’s call as far as how it all worked out in the box and so forth. It’s very difficult to say from my view and I’d like to see a full replay to kind of verify some of the things that I saw. Obviously, NASCAR saw something they didn’t like and made a call accordingly. That’s their job.”