NASCAR Continues Bud Shootout Mess
The August changes to the annual season-opening non-points race made eligibility requirements revolve around the previous season's manufacturer standings with the top six team from each car make earning a spot in the dash for cash. According to NASCAR, it was an attempt to give more exposure to the four car companies that compete in the Sprint Cup Series.
The result left Tony Stewart and other notable drivers ineligible for the Feb. 7 race and on Friday, NASCAR changed that.
Now, the top six teams from each manufacturer still gain entry to the race based on the 2008 season-ending owner point standings, but each car make will receive one "wild card" entry that will go first to a non-eligible past Sprint Cup champion in each manufacturer and then to the 7th-highest finishing team in the car owner points.
As a result, Tony Stewart will now gain entry to the Shootout thanks to his use of the No. 70 Chevrolet's owner points and the fact that Stewart attempted to qualify for all of the 2008 races.
Robby Gordon, switching to Toyotas in 2009, will participate thanks to his Dodge owner point standings from a year ago in a one-off effort in a Dodge he apparently had still laying around the shop. And yes, NASCAR is completely fine with that.
According to David Poole's work over at ThatsRacin', Toyota's extra entry should be Dave Blaney's old No. 22 car but because that car isn't expected to race in 2009, rookie Scott Speed's No. 84 will be the likely entry despite Speed having competed in just a handful of 2008 events.
On the Ford end, Bobby Labonte now becomes eligible because of his new gig with Hall of Fame/Yates Racing that affords him the use of David Gilliland's No. 38 car owner points. Martin Truex Jr., in a Chevrolet but 8th in Chevy's owner points, won't be eligible despite finishing 16th in the previous season's standings -- compared to Speed's 35th-place standing (the No. 84 car) in 2008.
Simply, the new wrinkle in the Shootout fold hasn't improved the format at all other than sufficing Stewart and Labonte fans irked at the fact their driver couldn't qualify. I have a strong, strong feeling that this format would have remained at the original 24 cars had Stewart previously qualified for the Shootout.
This attempt at fixing an incredibly broke system will still allow problems in the future and making it incredibly confusing for the fans to understand won't help it gain interest. Poole advocates for a fan vote-in technique, but I'd still like to see it be performance-related.
Lap leaders, final point standings or something -- this method is just not fan-friendly.