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: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: February 22, 2012 12:10 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Ok, let's get a little more real here.  The rules in the past were the top 14 positions of each race plus the drivers who were 1st and 2nd in qualifying, would make the race then the next 6 positions were filled by qualifying speeds then positions 37-42 were provisionals based on the previous years points then a past champions provisional making the field 43 cars.

Meaning?  Meaning that a car who finished in the top 35 the previous year, would have a darn good chance of making the race at Daytona so nothing really changed did it?  The major anticipation was if a "big one" happened that took out half the field, then you could see who would get the provisionals and who would get in no speed, but that was about it.  The 150's are great in that the race is not a points race but a bragging race that does have some meaning as it allows one to pick pit stalls. 

As for your comment there is no one who has yet to qualify that has a chance to win.  I beg to differ.  My bias will show here but there is a 2 time Daytona 500 winner who is pretty good in the draft who, IF HE MAKES THE RACE, will have a darn good chance to win.  And that is Michael Waltrip.  So say what you will, to watch Mikey trying to be one of the two cars to transfer in his 150 will be fun to watch. 

Here's hoping he can stay out of the wrecks. 

Since: Jan 26, 2012
Posted on: February 21, 2012 8:31 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

It depends on what you're watching them for.  If you just want to get to see some racing with a little added drama, then they are perfect for you.  However, if you are watching it with any interest in the actual qualifying aspects of it, it leaves a lot to be desired.  For the most part, they are Bud Shootouts without the winning purse.

Here's an idea that would not only make the Gatorade Duels more intersting, but it would possibly dissolve some of the issues fans have with swapping owner points.  How about keep the top 35 rule for the season, but not make the first 5 races based on last year's points.  Start the slate clean for each, the first couple races you might have a big name not make the field, which would be bad for both fans and NASCAR if there is some high-value name in an early wreck.   But, after the first couple races all your big names will be well inside the top 35.  This would put the emphasis back into the Duels because NO ONE would be locked into the show except for the drivers that qualify on the front row.  Like I said, NASCAR would never run the risk of a big name missing the Daytona 500 so we won't ever see something like this put into place.

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: February 21, 2012 5:48 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

While it would never, ever go over well with the top brass at NASCAR, the teams with the most to lose in a big wreck in the duels that are already locked in (like Roush, HMS, JGR, RCR, RPM, SHR, etc...) should all take the green flag fall to the back or simply park their cars.  Everyone knows that as long as your in the Daytona 500, it doesn't matter where you start so just save your equipment and wait until raceday, otherwise you run the risk of having to pull out a back-up car for each of your entries - what a waste of money!!!!

It would be nice to see the owners band together, but they know better than to bite the hand that is feeding them, so it will never happen. 

Maybe there should be 1 duel with all of the folks that didn't qualify on time to make the field, but with no big names in the field who would watch?  Heck they could run it as a heat race the morning of the 500 to set the rest of the field. 

Since: Nov 25, 2011
Posted on: February 21, 2012 4:14 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

The Duels are meaningless, unless you're the recipient of a scarce starting spot. I've heard all the pros and cons about the Top 35 rule, but I still don't like it. Same goes for the Lucky Dog free pass. Want your lap back? Earn it.

The Duels might be a little more exciting this year because of the changes made to the cars. I have to wonder if the Duels are going to be wreckfests like the Bud Shootout was on Saturday night. Some teams might not want to risk tearing up a race car, especially when they're already locked in to the Daytona 500. It's a test session alright, a test of whether or not you're going to get caught up in somebody else's mess. 

The Gatorade Duels won't be anticlimatic for the 4 drivers that have to race their way into the 2012 Daytona 500.     &

Since: Feb 21, 2012
Posted on: February 21, 2012 3:27 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Yes, very anticlimactic. The Top 35 rule is like elementary school.

Just because I finished the fourth grade does not mean I deserve all C's in the first five races (or subjects) of my fifth grade year.
(Make the day of the Gatorade Duels a start over point)

Speedways are trying to gain more revenue.
After Daytona weekend, qualifying is even more boring.
Until they bring back old school qualifiying, Fridays will always be a bust at the race track.

No drama, no excitement anymore. TOP 35 rule takes everything off the line and makes it simply a procedural formality.

Since: Dec 22, 2011
Posted on: February 21, 2012 2:28 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

I did like the old way in the Twin 125's.

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