NASCAR mulls eliminating top 35 qualifying rule
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - NASCAR qualifying could have a very different look next season.
Series officials are mulling the elimination of the top-35 rule to put the focus back on speed.
Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said Thursday he's already discussed the possibility with some teams and that fans want to see the fastest cars start the race. Since 2005, the top 35 in points have been guaranteed provisional starting spots at the next race, which has sometimes eliminated faster cars from starting the race.
All that could change in 2013.
"The top 35 was a good rule when we had impound races and that stuff,'' Pemberton said. "But I think there's a lot of folks that like that speed gets you in.''
The rule was designed to make sure full-time teams with big-name drivers and big sponsors did not miss the race.
But with series officials looking for ways to reinvigorate the fan base and end the decline in attendance, some believe that relying on pure speed rather than points could be part of the solution.
Still, Pemberton believes, there is precedent to keep some provisional starting spots.
"There's always a place for provisionals and there always has been for someone who's had a bad day,'' he said. "But you don't know where that will fall.''
Another rule change could open the door to more testing.
Pemberton said teams are better positioned to test now than they were several years ago and they've been testing more often anyway, making it difficult for series officials to enforce the current rules.
The series eliminated testing at any tracks that hosted a NASCAR national event in 2008 to save money. But some teams maneuvered around the rule by testing at tracks that did not host series races.
What they're looking for now is a way to re-introduce sanctioned testing at a lower cost.
"They've been in places that I didn't know existed,'' he said, drawing laughter. "So it's up to them not to test at non-sanctioned tracks. It's something that is really to do, and teams need to test sometimes.''
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