by: PattyKay Lilley
Good day race fans, and welcome to Qualifying 101. The qualifying race for the Daytona 500 will be run this year on Sunday, February 17. As that day approaches, I’m hearing folks that have been in and around racing for years on end, including our own dear Legend, Tim Leeming, in yesterday’s column, saying that they don’t understand all the “changes” in the qualifying format. All I can say is that some folks must have shorter memories than mine… if that’s possible.
Gentle readers, I’m betting that those of you that have read anything I’ve written over the past nine years have heard me complain bitterly about that guaranteed top-35 spots in a race… at any race, but even more so at Daytona. My point was always that it negated any reason to run the Twin 150s… the Dual Duels that have run the Thursday before the big Sunday of the 500 for about as long as there has been a race track at Daytona. All that has happened is that NASCAR finally came ’round to my way of thinking, and that rule is now history. (Thank you Mr. France)
What we have now are essentially the same rules for Daytona qualifying that we had from 2003 counting backwards to 1959. The front row, positions 1-2, will go to the two fastest drivers from their qualifying runs on Feb. 17. That’s it for that day… two cars… period! The next 30 positions will be decided by placement in the Dual Duels, scheduled to run on Thursday, February 21. (I “think” they are still sponsored by Budweiser, and the racing field for each race is set by alternating placement from qualifying speeds.) Fifteen positions will be added to the already qualified pole sitter in each Dual race. We now have 32 cars qualified. (Remember, with that guaranteed top 35, the Dual races were only placing two cars apiece… decidedly not worth wrecking one’s car for)
The next four positions (33, 34, 35, 36) will go to drivers that didn’t make it in through the qualifying Duals, but posted the four fastest speeds in the February 17 qualifier. The next six positions, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 will be awarded as provisional starts based on 2012 Owner points. Finally, position 43, last on the starting grid, will go to the most recent past champion not yet in the field. If there is not a past champion still not in, that position will be filled by the next driver eligible based on 2012 owner points.
Just a side note here if I might… I’ve seen some quotes that the top 6 in qualifying are guaranteed to race, and that is correct. Even if those with qualifying speeds 3, 4, 5, 6 all failed to finish in their respective races, they would still be in on time, for positions 33, 34, 35, 36. It was always that way prior to our nine-year guarantee experiment, and now it’s that way again, reverting to speed before provisionals. C’mon guys, a lot of us have been around a long time. We’re going back to the old way… or as the Legend would say, “Back to the Future.” It’s really not rocket science!
For all races following the Daytona 500, the fastest 36 drivers in qualifying will make the race with six spots based on owner points and one spot reserved for a past champion (and if no past champion, another by owner points). For the next two races… Phoenix and Las Vegas…, 2012 owner points will be used. Please note another small victory for common sense there. Instead of using owner points from the past year for 6 or 5 races, we are now down to only three. Probably should be only one, but it’s getting better…
Now then gentle readers, and you too dear Legend, does that make it any easier to understand? Yes, it is and always has been a bit convoluted, but it was Big Bill’s show and he was decidedly a showman. Two or even three weeks of various racing at Daytona has been the norm of “Speedweeks” at Daytona since the track opened. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 has simply reverted to the same rules we have always known. I understood them then and I understand them now. It was the intervening nine years that I could not understand.
Oh, and Mr. France, I read where you have moved your media espionage department ( Media and Fan Engagement Center) from the Beach up to Charlotte and situated them in some pretty new offices. That’s nice Sir. Gives me a warm feeling of closeness, if only in that Charlotte is closer to North Georgia than is Daytona Beach. I appreciate that you’ve come out and confirmed what I’ve been saying for years… that you do care and you do read every word we write. I hope this explanation of the Daytona Qualifying rules is pleasing to you. I really do understand it, and now, I hope all my gentle readers do as well.
At this point, I cannot close without noting the date is January 17, and that means it was six short years ago today… or maybe six long years, depending on perception, that planet earth… and I, bade a sad “Good-bye” to Benny Parsons, racecar driver, Winston Cup Champion, broadcaster, humorist of the highest magnitude and my friend.
Some folks were just born to be remembered and that was Benny, in a nutshell. He was always ready with a quick one-liner and always loved to laugh. We met and exchanged pleasantries, well okay…jokes, many times at Martinsville, where our seats were always right under the press booth, on the aisle.
Benny was probably the only man on earth that could tell me I looked like a giant pink Shmoo and make it sound like a compliment, which I’m sure it was. It was raining that day and I had donned a bright pink poncho, purchased at a garage sale for $1, and proudly proclaiming across the back, “Pepto~Bismol.” He spied me on his way to the press booth, stopped dead in the aisle, clamped one hand over his mouth as he pointed at me with the other and broke into hysterical laughter, all at the same time. The Shmoo simile followed.
It never once occurred to me to ask Benny for an autograph, and the only picture I ever took of him was one time after he’d already headed up to the booth and I caught him at the top of the steps, where he obligingly posed for me before entering the press booth.
(There are many tributes to Benny, and I watched many of them before choosing one to place here. This one brought tears, and I knew immediately it was the right one.)
I was always delighted to share my sense of humor with Benny in exchange for his. We even share the same birthday, July 12, though I got here first by three years. Benny, ya left too soon old friend. Way too soon. Godspeed dear man. We’ll laugh again one day.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!
If you’ve enjoyed your visit so far, we invite you to check out the Stock Car RacersReunion site by clicking here. By simply creating a log-in you will have access to over 100,000 vintage racing photos and thousands of articles, stories and conversations, some with legendary participants whose names you will recognize. As part of our racing family, you are free to enjoy the Chat Room and all Forums will be open for discussing your passion for racing with others of like mind. RacersReunion truly is where legends and fans unite.