NASCAR’s decision to cancel Sprint Cup qualifying Friday at Kentucky Speedway to give teams more practice time raised questions among some fans and led to Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Travis Kvapil failing to make the field.
Monday, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, explained on “The Morning Drive” the sanctioning body’s decision to cancel qualifying for both Cup and the Xfinity Series last week.
“We could probably have done a better job of explaining it,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
NASCAR faced several challenges last week. Teams were using a new lower-downforce package for the first time there. Although extra practice time had been scheduled, rain and water seeping up to the track limited Cup teams to 49 minutes of practice before the decision was made to cancel qualifying and give teams an additional 90 minutes of practice.
“Under all the circumstances we were faced with (at Kentucky) … the desire from the majority of the garage to get some more time on the track prior to the race became our priority at that point,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“And then the challenges we had drying the track. We didn’t know if we’d even get to a point where we could get cars on the track, so we elected to go early and have everybody focus on setting up for the race.
“One of the challenges for the teams is it’s a three-hour transition going to qualifying trim vs. going back. It also helped the teams that were there to really prepare everything for the race vs. qualifying. Certainly, we can be challenged for that, but it was something that that race and the circumstances dictated for us, and, ultimately, the decision we made wanting to put the best possible race on Saturday night.”
The decision meant that Blaney, McDowell and Kvapil missed the Cup race because their teams had made fewer qualifying attempts this season than others in the field.
The biggest challenge last week was drying the track. Weepers – water seeping up to the track – delayed track activity.
O’Donnell said that in one instance most of the track was dry in about two hours but it took an additional four hours to combat the weepers.
“It was a problem all weekend,” he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It is absolutely something we’re going to address with the folks at Kentucky because we need to be able to get on the racetrack as quickly as possible.”