Qualifying procedures will take a page from NASCAR's past for the 2013 season. (Getty Images)
In reality, nothing announced is new but rather a return to a former way of doing business.
The much-maligned “Top 35 Rule,” which had guaranteed starting spots to teams inside the first 35 positions of owners' points has finally been eradicated having outlived whatever usefulness it had.
Fields will be set the old-fashioned way, primarily on speed with the points standings filling out the lineup. The fastest 36 drivers in qualifying make the show with the next six spots going to those highest in the points standings. One former champion's provisional will round out the 43 starters.
There is no limit to the number of times that a driver can use the points provisional to make a race, thereby virtually guaranteeing fans all the sport's top stars will compete every week. One of the defenses used in the Top 35 argument was it protected against the possibility of a big name missing a race, which might have been the case.
However, it came at the cost of a more open competition, something that the more traditional qualifying format restores.
“Times change, and we have to change with those,” said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. “To go back and make the field the fastest 36 to get in the race and six provisionals and the championship spot, we feel that's good.”
As part of the evolution to once again make Sprint Cup qualifying sessions more meaningful, several 2013 weekends will revert back to the customary schedule that the sport was built on. Friday qualifying will again be the norm with a pair of practices on Saturday to allow teams a chance to dial in cars for Sunday's race.
The past few seasons have seen a hodgepodge of weekend schedules with some featuring just a Saturday time trial, forcing teams to spend time and effort to come to a track for basically two laps at the most of competition.
The sanctioning body also will dump the idea of setting the qualifying order based on practice speeds. Too many teams manipulated that format to put up a slow speed during a practice session in order to get an early draw for qualifying, many times taking advantage of better track conditions for a faster run.
Teams will now once again randomly draw for their qualifying spots.
“I think with the qualifying draw, it really adds some drama back into the qualifying order just for the fact if you get a bad draw, you qualify 20th, you're going to have the fastest car in the back or the middle of the field,” Kevin Harvick said.
“I'm in favor of all the things they did. There's definitely some more work ahead to get things where everybody wants them. But NASCAR did a great job with these rule changes.”
This week's announcements were the latest example of NASCAR's response to an outcry from many within its fan base to return the sport to its roots. Changes in tradition have been prominent over the past decade, and some of the more radical ideas appear to have run their course.
The report of NASCAR investigating the possibility of adding more short-track events to the Camping World Truck Series schedule, specifically a dirt track at Eldora Speedway in Ohio, is another indication that the sanctioning body is at least trying to give the fans what they want.
The glut of mile-and-a-half tracks on all three of NASCAR's top division schedules have created a sameness in the sport that has turned off many fans. More variety, whether it is a return to short tracks or the addition of a new road course or two (Mid-Ohio and Road Atlanta are also rumored to be on the Truck calendar in 2013), is a must for NASCAR to recapture fans' imagination.
There wasn't anything earth-shattering about this week's policy announcements to long-time NASCAR fans who remember how things used to be.
Maybe by taking another step or two back to the past, NASCAR can build for a more prosperous future.