This was the first time NASCAR’s group qualifying was used for the Daytona 500 and, as far as Clint Bowyer and many others are concerned, it should be the last time. Bowyer found himself in a five car pile-up during the first round of qualifying runs to determine who would be on the front row for the start of next Sunday’s race.
Group qualifying has worked well at most of the tracks in the Sprint Cup series, except for Daytona and Talladega, which are super speedways. Speeds easily get up to 200 mph on those tracks and they are well known for their wild multi-car wrecks. It was the second time this weekend that Bowyer was involved in a wreck as he also crashed during the Sprint Unlimited race on Saturday night.
As Yahoo! Sports reported, Bowyer, who drives the No. 15 car, put the blame square on the shoulders of NASCAR and not on Reed Sorenson, who drives the No. 44 car, for trying to block him.
“…it ain’t his fault. It’s not. It’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out here in the middle of this crap for nothing. We used to come down here and worry about who’s going to sit on the front row and the pole for the biggest race of the year. Now all we do is come down here and worry about how a start and park like this out of desperation is going to knock us out of the Daytona 500.
“We’ve been in meetings for 45 minutes just trying to figure out what in the hell everybody’s is going to do just so we could make the race. It’s stupid. There’s no sense in doing this.”
Sorenson admitted he was trying to block Bowyer in order to keep his fast running time from being overtaken.
“He has a right to be upset. I was trying to block. I think what he saw is what I was trying to do. I was just trying to stay in front of him to get that good lap. I didn’t think that he was all the way up to me yet.”
As Fox Sports reported, the wreck may have cost Sorenson a chance at driving in the Daytona 500 as that was the only car his small team brought to the race.
Other drivers like Kurt Busch also said that knock-out qualifying was the wrong format for the race. Drivers still have to run races in the Budweiser Duels on Thursday to determine who makes the field and the rest of the starting line-up for next week’s race. Six drivers will be left out of the race as there are too many entrants vying to get in.
When the wreckage was finally cleaned up and qualifying resumed, Jeff Gordon came out triumphant and won the pole for his last Daytona 500. As the Inquisitr reported, Gordon plans to retire from racing at the end of the season, and he has been adamant this would be his last time in the “Great American Race.”
“I can’t think of anything cooler than to start this season, the Daytona 500, my final Daytona 500, final full season, on the pole It’s going to be pretty important for me to be on that pole when it all starts.”
Gordon seemed to mock the other drivers who complained about the group qualifying format with a shout out to Steve O’Donnell, the executive vice-president of NASCAR. “Great Format, Steve!” Gordon when on to say it was a good format when it worked.
“This format is crazy and chaotic. It can be extremely rewarding when you have a day like we had”
His Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmy Johnson, will start alongside Gordon on Sunday.
[Video via YouTube; image courtesy of ESPN]