NASCAR's first group qualifying session of the season was a briskly entertaining 25-minute session akin to watching a NASCAR Wheel of Fortune wheel spin.
While qualifying for Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Daytona was fascinating to watch, it was impossible to track if you were used to the standard one-by-one qualifying. At one point, 30 cars were on the track drafting off one another. There was no idea to tell who was making a run at the pole or not.
And that's why it was so entertaining. The original 55 minute session was cut short to 25 and delayed twice by rain, but when it was over, Dylan Kwasniewski was on the pole for his first career Nationwide Series race.
Kwasniewski is running full-time for Turner Scott Motorsports, who swept the top three positions with Kyle Larson in second and Danica Patrick in third. While Patrick admitted that the qualifying session was exciting for those watching, it could be hairy for drivers at other tracks.
"I think there are some times when it's going to be a total disaster," Patrick said. "Like when we go to short tracks. I just can't imagine where it's going to be like. (At Daytona), there's plenty of room, people can go wherever, there's many many lanes, it's all about momentum. But when you go to places like Bristol, Martinsville, and shoot even Phoenix. Short tracks in general are just going to be a really big challenge. And then you've got the mile-and-a-halves where you're just going a lot faster."
"So I think these speedways are really interesting and there's a lot of moving around, but there are going to be some that you're going to find a lot of drivers really mad at other ones, or spotters mad at other spotters probably, because as drivers, we pretty much go when our spotter tells us to go."
But isn't that one of the objectives of the new qualifying format? With very few cars -- if any -- failing to make the field on most race weekends and a lack of incidents, qualifying had begun to feel like a formality at times. With the new group format, the potential for drama is back, whether it be in the form of feuds, strategy, wrecked race cars or a combination of all three.
As drivers and teams get accustomed to the new format, we'll see if any of that potential materializes, but its mere presence certainly isn't a bad thing.
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