An Alternative to NASCAR's Top 35 Rule

Thayne HallyburtonCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2008

NASCAR's biggest mistake of the new era, and there have not been many, has been the inseption of the top 35 rule. Any time the subject is brought up on NASCAR Sirius radio the phone lines light up like a Christmas tree. But how can it be changed to be more fan and competitor friendly? 


Firstly, I do like the idea of having the big guys have a spot in every race. This si to keep the majority of the fans happy as most NASCAR fans are fans of the top 10 drivers int he sport.

NASCAR can’t have Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt JR. miss any races. Ratings go down when one of the two miss the "chase", (the last ten races where the top 12 in points have their points wiped out and start from scratch, the winner of those ten races wins the NASCAR championship. It is like NASCAR’s version of the playoffs) imagine what kind of uproar would happen if one of them were not competing in an event at all.

The following is my solution to the mess that NASCAR has created with the 'top 35 rule'.

1: top 20 in drivers points are guaranteed a spot in that weekends NASCAR Sprint cup race.

2:One provisional per win in the previous 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

3: Use drivers points only to decide the top 20

4: qualify the go or go homer’s before the top 20 in case of rain. If it rains after the qualifying of the go or go homers is done, line them up in the order of their qualifying from 21st on back. Treat the two sets of qualifiers as separate sessions if rain is threatening.

5: add a 5-point bonus to the top finishing driver outside of the top 20 just like the lead lap bonus and the most laps led bonus.

Positives to my system:

With only allowing driver's points to count, this will eliminate the switching of points between cars, letting cars originally outside the top 35, take the points of a car inside the top 35, thus letting them into the race without having to get in through qualifying. 

Past champions provisionals are ridiculous as racing is a what have you done for me lately kind of sport. Having Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte in the race is great as it is a throw back to the old school days, but if they deserve to be racing in NASCAR's premier series then they should have to qualify in on time to prove it. If they can't go race in the old school racing series with the rest of the legends of yesteryear. 

Having the top 20 rule still gives safety to the biggest names in NASCAR. This is necessary because, even though I do believe everyone should have to qualify in on time, what would happen to NASCAR if Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., or Jimmie Johnson miss a race? NASCAR would lose a lot of fans really quick. People pay the outrageous admission prices to see the top guys race.  

Qualifying all of the go or go home racers (guys not in the top 20) first, before the guys locked into the race is the smart thing to do because in case of rain, NASCAR can get their session in before the rains hit and not worry about the other 20 drivers. On Sunday, start the top twenty, 1 through 20 and then as the other cars qualified put them in 21 through 43. 

Finally, the advantage to giving a 5 point bonus to the best-finishing car outside the top 20 will give more focus on the driver in that position from a media perspective and will help them get into the top 20 a little faster.    

Negatives to my system:

The rain can still affect the system, but hopefully with them going first it will eliminate this factor as much as possible.

This system could hurt the racing as a whole because less teams will be able to spend Friday’s practice sessions concentrating on race setups only, but it may create tighter racing further in the pack.

If only we could get FOX or ESPN to show these battles, but that is another topic.

You need to make sure that the big guys, with the big sponsors are in the race, then have the rest of the field need to qualify on time into the race, to keep the fans happy.


If NASCAR makes a change like this it will make qualifying worth watching again, create a more fair qualifying system and will keep NASCAR's middle of the road teams honest.