Blog Entry

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Posted on: February 21, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 12:59 pm

Thursday's Gatorade Duels will set the field for Sunday's Daytona 500.(US Presswire)

Has the top 35 owner rule rendered the Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?


The Top 35 rule has impacted qualifying across the entire Sprint Cup Series schedule and basically turned time trials into a placement exercise of simply where drivers start in the field.

By guaranteeing drivers a spot in the lineup, the "do or die" mentality of qualifying for most teams that show up has disappeared. That drama was a major element of the Daytona Gatorade Duel races until a few years ago when the Top 35 ruined the doubleheader.

Before guaranteed owner points came into the picture, the Thursday races before the Daytona 500 were one of the highlights of not only Speedweeks but for some the entire season. Drivers needed to finish inside the first 15 to punch their ticket to the 500 or pack up and head home, a format that set up tremendous excitement and was a fan favorite -- responsible for 100,000 or more packing the Daytona grandstands for the weekday matinee.

Today's 150-milers are pale comparisons to what was one of Daytona's best traditions.


To be completely anticlimactic would mean the Duels carry no significance, which isn't the case at all, but the top 35 owner rule has certainly ruined the simplicity of things.

Oh how I long for the days when the top 14 or 15 drivers from each qualifier made the Daytona 500. Nowadays you almost need a Masters in Calculus to figure out how driver outside the top 35 can make it to Sunday's main event.

Consider that there are in actuality 39 positions locked up -- the top 35 in owner points from a year ago, the three fastest non-top 35 drivers from qualifying and a champions provisional -- heading into Thursday's Duels leaving 10 drivers -- none of whom you'd put much stock in actually winning the Daytona 500 -- vying for the four remaining spots in the field.

And what of the drivers that are locked in? For them, the Duels are a test session as much as anything. The funny thing about the Daytona 500 is that so much effort goes into setting the field for a race where starting position means very little.

That's not so say the races aren't exciting for fans, it is a race at Daytona after all. But the importance and gravity is lacking.

How about awarding points to the winners of each event? Not a huge amount, maybe a 5-point bonus to the winners.

And while I understand what NASCAR is trying to do with the top 35 rule, I'm wondering if it make sense to just start fresh each season. In other words, when it comes to the Daytona 500, nobody is locked in.

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Since: Nov 25, 2011
Posted on: February 23, 2012 5:45 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Congrats to Michael McDowell, Robby Gordon, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek. Y'all are racing in the 2012 Daytona 500.

Maybe Michael Waltrip can buy himself a ride before Sunday, or have Mark Martin sit out. I'm glad Michael only wrecked himself today.

It appears there's an overheating issue, and I wonder if that's going to be an issue on Sunday. If not addressed, it's going to be a terrible race. 

Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:14 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

jeff5768: Good post. You explained things that anyone one could understand. I also would like to see NASCAR go back to the old qualifying format. I think the first row should be set by the qualifying times done on Sunday, but with one exception. I wish they would not be conunted in picking the 15 positions set in each Duel run. Give them the win and the money but don't count them in the final 15. They already have their spot secured. Pretty much the same way they do for the points in the Nationwide. If you are going for the points in Sprint you don't get credit for the points in Nationwide, but you still get the win and the money.

Since: Nov 25, 2011
Posted on: February 23, 2012 1:02 am

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Anyone can qualify for the 2012 Daytona 500 with enough money. Points are money. I doubt the original intention of the Top 35 rule was to actually sell starting positions. That's Daytona, today. Anyone, with enough money, is guaranteed to start the first 5 races.  

I doubt you'll see 100,000 fans in the stands today. Wonder why?         





Since: Nov 20, 2007
Posted on: February 22, 2012 10:26 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

I agree with Mikeyfan on quite alot of what he said in his postings on this topic.  Had he not said his words, I would have nearly mirrored some of what he said. 

Leave it to a simpleton like Pete Pistone to make it sound like only 30 cars started the Daytona 500 prior to the Top 35 rule.  He simply stated that you had to finish in the top 15 in each Duel race and you were in the race and then if you finished worse than that, you were not in the Daytona 500.  Well, that was simply hogwash.  Once again Pete trying to lead his sheep.  At least De Los Santos mentioned a bit more to how the Duels work in today's day and age.

A little addendum to what Mikeyfan says is this:  The top 35 rule was put in after the 2004 season and thus this hard to figure NASCAR qualifying rule set, for the Daytona 500, was 1st instituted for the 2005 Daytona 500.  2004 only had 45 cars show up for the 500, which means 2 cars went home.  The top 2 on qualifying day won the front row(one thing that's stayed the same) and the Duels were set by odd-even after that.  If you qualified 1st, 3rd, 5th, and all the odd #'s down the line, you started in Duel 1.  If you qualified 2nd, 4th, 6th, and all the even #'s down the line, you started in Duel 2.  Pretty easy system.  The top 15(or 14 if the front row drivers in Quals finished further down) in each Duel did make the 500.  Indeed pretty exciting.  After that, those that didn't make the 500 that way, spots 31-38 indeed were in on fastest Qualifying speeds.  Spots 39-42 were for those not in the field from those 2 prior scenarios, as provisionals from prior season's owner's pts. and lastly the 43th car was for a Past Champion and if not needed, then another provisional from the prior season's owner's pts.  Rarely did the Past Champion's provisional get used in the very late 90's to early 2000's.  In 2003 and for a few season's earlier spots 37-42 were the provisional spots, which meant less spots to get in by speed.

I am a numbers kind of dude and totally understand how this qualifying format for the 500 works currently, but I know it's not so easy for most fans to get because it surely is not simple.  I too wish it would go back to 2004 and earlier or to make it even easier, I'd make it where the top 30(15 from each Duel) make the race and then spots 31 to 43 get in on fastest speeds after that with not one provisional, not even for a Past Champion. 

All of this said, are the Duels anticlimatic?  To me, no they are not, because I find it intriguing watching those not locked in fight it out.  Usually Speed focuses on that aspect of the race and it can be exciting indeed.  Last year Brad Keselowski pushing his brother Brian into the 500 was awesome.  In 2005, Kenny Wallace edged(by a mere nose) out Kerry Earnhardt out of a 500 spot, which was so heartbreaking, as this was the only time that Kerry tried to make the 500 and he came oh so close.

Enough said on this matter for now.

Jeff   Surprised

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: February 22, 2012 9:00 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Mikey you said:
Here's hoping he can stay out of the wrecks.
You may hope that he can stay out of the wreck(s), but I hope he doesn't cause any wrecks Sealed

Since: Jun 18, 2007
Posted on: February 22, 2012 5:45 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

I realize, it wouldn't change much for Daytona, but I would like to see the weekly rules changed a little bit.  They should allow the 12 drivers from the previous year's chase to be locked in every week.  Then, the current top 12 drivers in the standings - year to date plus last week's winner.  That would be a max of 25 locked in positions.  In reality, it should only lock in 15-20 drivers max because chances are, previous year Chase drivers would likely be in top 12.

That would add a little drama to qualifying & might also allow a maverick driver/team to win one week & get a guaranteed spot in next week's race.  Probably a long shot...but you never know.

As MikeyFan pointed out, it probably wouldn't change the field 10%.  Especially at Daytona.  But it would give an air of integrity and fairness to the qualfying process.  Then it could be more of a TV or Fan event to watch qualifying because it actually means something to more than 3 or 4 drivers. 

Even more interesting would be to hold open the last 3 spots after time trials, and allow all cars that didn't qualify to run a 15 lap sprint.  Three top finishers are in.  That would be cool.  I know...I know...a lot to coordinate.  But could you imagine a bunch of drivers with good records maybe they switched teams, or had a bad run so they didn't qualify?  Then you get guys like Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Casey Atwood, Trevor Bayne, David Ragan, and guys like that out there battling for 3 spots.  It would be worth watching!  Especially when it means a 50K payday to make a race! 

Since: Nov 5, 2008
Posted on: February 22, 2012 4:52 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

The top 35 rule and the 'lucky dog' are both not good.  

Since: Dec 12, 2010
Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:51 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

You cant get new teams to go racing if you wont let them try.

Since: Aug 6, 2008
Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:01 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Personally I would like to see the top 35 rule disappear, but if they insist on a top 35 rule, the least they could do is quit allowing it to carry over from year to year. Make everyone qualify for the first 5 races and then impliment the top 35 rule.

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: February 22, 2012 12:35 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Just to set the record straight,  in 2007, the last year before the top 35 rule, not a single car in the top 35 failed to make the race, that attempted to qualify. In 2006 2 cars failed the 10 which was 35th in points and the 15 which was 25th in points. 

Bottom line is this, most cars in the top 35 make the race anyway whether with a provisional or now the lock in. 

It is amazing how one yells about something and long for something that really didn't change that much anyway.  I guess the media has to twist and turn things around to make a story, but in reality there really isn't one.  Not in the top 35 being locked in anyway, over the way it used to be. 

Pete, Brain, do the readers a favor, when you bring up something like this bring up the way it used to be and then bring some FACTS to the table to show there really is a Big difference between then and now, or that as much as people scream about it, there really isn't that big of a difference. 

But that would mean a little research won't it.

Now Brian you understand why I said what I did Saturday night?  Wink

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