Saturday, August 02, 2008

Nationwide Qualifying was fun

I'm watching the Nationwide Series qualifying as I write this, and enjoying it. Mexico City and Montreal are the only places we have seen what NASCAR calls "European qualifying."

European qualifying is where the cars are sent out in groups of five to run the track for a set amount of time, in this case, nine minutes. That gives the drivers about six or seven laps in which to post their best time, and their best time will be their qualifying time. We like conventional qualifying, with single car runs, but European qualifying is very interesting.

It was no surprise when Carl Edwards took the provisional pole. He is good on road courses, and the Ford engine has a fourteen horsepower advantage over the Toyotas, and a seven horsepower advantage over the Chevies.

The first surprise was when Mike Wallace fell short of Edward's time by .01 seconds, then won the provisional pole on the next lap by making his Camry go around the circuit .02 seconds faster than Edward's Ford Fusion. I guess horsepower isn't everything.

The really big surprise was when Joey Logano, in his very first stock car road race, took the #20 JGR Toyota to the provisional P1. Crew Chief Dave Rogers has something good going on with that car, horsepower advantage or not.

Well, we knew these times wouldn't stand. The specialists were still to come, and Home Town Hero, Jaques Villeneuve got the crowd up and dancing, when he momentarily had the fastest lap. However, Scott Pruett was the one who eventually took the pole position when he beat Villeneuve's time two laps later.

That qualifying session was very enjoyable. I think it would make sense, for NASCAR and the track promoters, to feature European style qualifying at all the road courses, at least in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. It's almost like having another form of racing as a companion event. Qualifying in this manner is most of the excitement of a Formula 1 Gran Prix, and it could bring fans to the track for qualifying in NASCAR. The stands at Montreal this morning were nearly full for the qualifying sessions, after all.

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