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Drivers like Sam Hornish Jr. will be staring at the scoreboard more often this year during qualifying to see where they're at due to elimination of the Top 35 rule.
While it remains to be seen how well it will be received by fans, elimination of the longtime and so-called Top-35 rule should be yet another attention-getter in the sport this season.
Fans have called for the elimination of the rule since it was first implemented in 2005.
Up until this season, the top 35 teams ranked in owner points, not driver points, have been given an automatic berth in a race. In theory, teams in the top 35 didn't even have to qualify if they didn't want to, but most usually did to try to gain an advantage over competitors for the start and early part of a race.
The new rule will take effect starting with the second race of the season at Phoenix (the season-opening Daytona 500 has its own unique qualifying system based upon qualifying and two subsequent heat races to fill the 43-car field).
With the new rule, the top 36 cars based on speed in qualifying will make the race. Six other spots will be determined by owner points, and the final spot will be reserved for a past champion who doesn't necessarily run regularly any longer, like Bill Elliott or Terry Labonte.
If there is no past champion—otherwise known as the "past champion's provisional"—then a seventh driver would qualify based on owner points.
If qualifying is rained out, the starting grid will be determined by the fastest lap speeds during practice sessions.
Elimination of the Top-35 rule is yet another example of how NASCAR is attempting to listen more to what fans want. The way I see it, it's a win-win for everyone.
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