Drivers blast NASCAR’s use of group qualifying for Daytona 500

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Competitors had plenty to say Sunday about using group qualifying for the first time for the Daytona 500. Most of their comments weren’t positive.

Drivers and owners raised questions and concerns about group qualifying at restrictor-plate events last season but the chorus grew louder at Daytona International Speedway after a session that featured a crash, confusion and, in the words of many, chaos.

Here’s what they said:

Ryan Newman: “The frustrating part is dealing with this whole system which makes no sense whatsoever. It’s hard to stand behind NASCAR when everybody I talk to up and down pit road doesn’t understand why we’re doing this. Maybe I need to be sat down and educated a little bit.’’

Denny Hamlin: “Mayhem. There’s no other word to describe it.’’

Clint Bowyer: “There’s no reason to be out here. These guys have spent six months working on these cars, busting their butts on these cars. … It’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out in the middle of this crap for nothing. We used to come down here and worry about who would set on the front pole in 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.”

Jeff Gordon: “When it turns out like the way it did for me, you like it. When it turns out like the way it did for Bowyer, you hate it.’’

Kyle Larson: “I think they need to go back to single-car qualifying. I think that’s about it for superspeedways anyway because this is pathetic. They just tore up a ton of cars in the first qualifying (session). I don’t see how it’s exciting. I don’t think the drivers think it’s exciting. This race has always been made off of how hard your team works to get the pole. I think they should go back to single car qualifying at superspeedways.”

David Gilliland: “It’s definitely chaotic. It’s just too circumstantial on a deal like this. To me, it’s not very good. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done. It needs to be fine-tuned a little bit.”

Kurt Busch: “We’re a lot of smart people here. There’s drivers, owners, NASCAR.  We got to find a better system. Too much hard work goes into these cars, then you have this roulette wheel for qualifying. It doesn’t seem the proper system.”

Brad Keselowski: “I think it’s about exactly what we expected.’’

David Ragan: “This session is real gimmicky and it all depends on who you get paired up with and a lot of it is luck and chance. That is just the way it is though. There are some really good cars that didn’t have good speed, and some really bad cars that did have good speed just because of situations. I would be very frustrated if this was it. I am not a fan of this format but it is what it is.”

Denny Hamlin: “There’s going to be a lot of unfavorable talk about it for sure. It can get dangerous when different cars are on different agendas and speeds. We’re either going to have to get better and smarter or it will have to change to make it a little bit safer. Other than that, we all knew for months that this was going to be the case. You tried to do the best you could.”

Richard Childress: “It has to have some adjustments. Definitely got to be adjusted. You can’t be wrecking people. You can’t depend on making the race the way we’re doing it here. We’ll let them figure it out.’’

AJ Allmendinger: “Honestly, I could have cared less how I qualified. I just didn’t want to wreck. So, I just kind of went along with the plan and that was it. Didn’t care.’’

Austin Dillon: “It ain’t right. I think we should go back to single-car (qualifying) myself. That is all I can say.”

Martin Truex Jr.: “My thoughts are they need to do something different. I don’t know, it’s just doesn’t seem like it’s a good show. It’s not fun. It’s kind of chaos. I don’t know, seeing cars get tore up and other stuff. I’m not a fan of it, but hey it is what it is.’’