Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Gordon won the pole for the Daytona 500 on Sunday in what will be his final run in the event. Gordon’s pole should have been a feel-good story for the sport but instead it was drowned out by the outcry over NASCAR using a group-qualifying format at Superspeedways. I will be the first one to admit that the format being used at tracks like Daytona and Talladega is something that needs to be addressed. However, I will also be the first one to point out that the drivers and teams deserve an equal amount of blame.
The drivers and teams knew what the format was going to be on Sunday. They knew that winning the pole was going to be in the hands of the drivers more than ever because of the format. They knew that the fastest car was going to take the pole but to be the fastest car there was going to have to be a sound strategy employed. Going into Sunday everyone knew this and yet when qualifying began it looked like nobody had a clue what was going on.
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Again, the format is flawed and that is something that needs to be addressed. Again, that doesn’t matter though because until it’s addressed you have to work with what you got.
In a perfect world drivers would have paired off with whoever they wanted to run with and they all would have went out there together and helped one another. In a perfect world drivers would have taken turns pushing and pulling so that everyone would have a chance to turn in a fast lap. In a perfect world everyone would have worked together to make an imperfect format work to the best of its abilities.
Clearly we do not live in a perfect world.
The drivers took a situation that was already frustrating and only made it worse. Choosing to sit around at the end of pit road for 3/4 of the session, only to rush out at the last moment and hopefully turn in a run doesn’t make the situation better. Choosing to deliberately slow down on the track in an effort to impede the progress of groups around you which could (and did) ultimately lead to a wreck doesn’t make the situation better.
Again, the format is flawed and that is something that needs to be addressed.
After qualifying on Sunday who voiced the loudest frustration about the format? It was Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart; three of the drivers whose days were negatively affected the most. If the format works out in your favor (Gordon and Jimmie Johnson) you’re not going to make it a point to bash it where if it doesn’t you’re obviously go to be more vocal about your feelings. Would Bowyer have had the same passion had he won the pole? I’m sure he would still think the format is flawed (which it is) but I doubt we would have had the same rant. The same can most likely be said for Stewart and Harvick as well. Heck, I’m sure Gordon and Johnson think the format is flawed (which again, it is) but when it benefits you or it works out in your favor it’s hard to argue.
Sunday we saw some of the greatest drivers in the world of motorsports take to the track to determine who would lead the field to the start of one of the greatest races in motorsports. Sunday we also saw some of the greatest drivers in motorsports take a bad situation and do absolutely nothing to make it better. The result of course was that bad situation only becoming worse.
One more time, the format is flawed and we all know that. That being said, the product that was qualifying on Sunday was more the result of the drivers than it was the flawed format.