Kevin Harvick responds to NASCAR official who questioned if drivers are purposefully messing up qualifying just to make the format go away
NASCAR qualifying has been a bit on an entertaining mess this year at tracks larger than 1-mile. Drafting is in play and it’s created a waiting game at the end of the pit lane.
No drivers wants to leave the pit lane first. Doing so would not give them the benefit of the draft.
The 2019 rules package has brought drafting into play. The cars have less horsepower and more downforce. Those two things create more on-throttle time which in turn has created drafting as tracks where it wasn’t really seen in the past.
Steve O’Donnell comments on qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway:
Earlier this week, Steve O’Donnell called into ‘The Morning Drive’ via Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. A big part of that phone interview involved the discussion of NASCAR qualifying.
O’Donnell noted that NASCAR doesn’t want to go back to single car qualifying, but they might. He also noted his person thoughts as he watched qualifying on Friday.
“I know the drivers did not like this qualifying that we were going to do before the season. So part of you asks, ‘Are we doing this on purpose?’ You know, to get rid of it,” O’Donnell stated.
Kevin Harvick responds to Steve O’Donnell
“Well, one way is not to air your dirty laundry on the radio,” Harvick said.
“I feel like calling the drivers out and saying that they’re sitting at the end of pit road on purpose is probably not something that you should publicly say even if you think it.”
“I wouldn’t flatter yourself with that thinking because of the fact we’re all sitting down there trying to figure out how to be first. And, I don’t want to be fourth. I want to be first. The best way to be first with this particular rules package is to be last.”
“Qualifying is a drafting game and you have to wait. Nobody wants to go out first. Daniel Suarez went out and made a lap by himself and he was good with being fourth.”
“I think as I look at that side of it, our job is, if it’s coming down to NASCAR and the teams trying to outdo themselves, that’s bad for everybody. [O’Donnell] referred to the drivers having a meeting. Those were driver council meetings, private meetings that were held, and I think a lot of us voiced our concern.”
“We all like group qualifying. Group qualifying is great. You’ve got multiple cars on the race track, you’ve got a lot of things happening, but it doesn’t work when you can draft because you wind up in these situations.”
Kevin Harvick suggests a fix for NASCAR qualifying
“The only way to fix qualifying with cars that draft is to have single-car qualifying on the superspeedways and the mile-and-a-half race tracks. That’s the only way to fix it,” Harvick stated.
“Any time that you have a draft, the guy in second is going to be faster than the guy in first as long as he’s close enough. That’s one of the unforeseen consequences that have come with this rules package that have impeded qualifying sessions that we’ve had this year at Texas, at (Auto Club) Speedway, at Las Vegas.
At Auto Club Speedway, all 12 drivers failed to set a lap in the final round of qualifying. The field waited so long at the edge of the pit lane that none of them made it back to the line in time to start a lap.
“It didn’t happen at Atlanta. I don’t know if that was for handling or we just didn’t know enough at that particular point. But, it doesn’t work and we told them it wouldn’t work in September.”
“Now we’re kind of getting the finger pointed at us from a drivers standpoint and referred to as trying to sit at the end of pit road and do this on purposes so it will go away. That’s not the case.”
“We’re all sitting down there and trying to figure out how we can somehow manage ourself in a hole to be first. That’s really what it’s about.”
“Whatever the rules are, however you want to manage everything, it’s about being first at the end of the day and trying to be the pole-sitter. The best way to do that is to wait until you get in position behind the most amount of cars to be last.”
Changes pending to NASCAR qualifying
NASCAR already made adjustments ahead of Texas Motor Speedway. It required that drivers leave the middle lane open while they wait on the pit lane.
But, NASCAR still had an incident with Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer. That brought Bowyer’s famed ‘clogging’ term to qualifying.
The tracks upcoming on the NASCAR schedule aren’t likely to see drafting come into play. Bristol and Richmond are up next. That’s followed by single car qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway. Then, the tour heads to Dover.
Kansas Speedway is the next 1.5-mile track where we’re likely to see a similar situation. That race is more than a month away on May 11th.
“We’re going to look at every option, including the possibility of going to single-car qualifying,” O’Donnell during the call earlier in the week.
“The reason we haven’t is that’s on the teams. That’s parts and pieces. We’ve tried to be as efficient as possible trying this method of (group) qualifying.
“But we’re definitely going to look at it and see what we can do. We’ve got a couple of weeks to do that. We’ll make adjustments as needed.”