Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – FORT WORTH, TX – After the final round of qualifying at Auto Club Speedway just one week ago, NASCAR announced changes to the qualifying procedure. More stringent rules on how cars will exit the pit lane were aimed at ensuring the competitors would get an official lap in before time expired.
Fast forward one week to Texas Motor Speedway and we again find NASCAR in a precarious position when it comes to the qualifying format. Clint Bowyer was vocally upset after qualifying concluded in his interviews with the media.
“They make up the rules as we go… It’s sad.” Bowyer said. “Those people up there paid a lot of money so their families could watch a qualifying session and people are trying to go out and do their best but you’re just sitting around, waiting, knowing that your best is only good enough if the guy in front of you does a good job. That’s not qualifying. It’s just whatever.”
Bowyer’s anger stemmed from an incident with Ryan Newman and NASCAR officials. Newman was directed to pull forward on the pit lane, which Bowyer was not notified of by NASCAR nor his team. He moved forward believing Newman would be making a qualifying run.
With the new aerodynamic and horsepower package, having a dancing partner in qualifying is imperative. Bowyer, trying to find a partner, chose Newman. Who never went on track.
A NASCAR spokesperson confirmed the situation after qualifying had concluded, adding that NASCAR would look into the matter and will be again looking at any changes to the qualifying format that may be necessary.
Bowyer however, is left wishing it didn’t take two events to iron out.
“Learn from your mistakes. That’s how you get better. Learn from your mistakes.” Bowyer said. “We already had this failure and here we are doin’ it again.”
When asked what needs to be done, Bowyer said, “What they should have done. They need to figure something else out. It. Doesn’t. Work. You can’t just keep trying it.”
Looking to what Qualifying could become if these issues aren’t fixed, Bowyer fears the next step in this debacle will be worse than teams not getting to run.
“We’re lucky that these keep happening. Wait until there’s a wreck on pit road.” Bowyer emphatically remarked. “We all know it’s comin’. We can’t go too fast down pit road, we can’t go too slow and that’s discretionary. What the hell speed am I supposed to go?! Just tell me when I’m supposed to go and maybe I’ll just do that.”
We await NASCAR’s changes to the qualifying procedure in the coming days after the Texas weekend has concluded. However, for Clint Bowyer that might be too little too late. If Bowyer were to miss the playoffs, the team could be looking back on a weekend like Texas, wondering ‘what if’ come November.