Something had to be done and NASCAR made the right call Friday night to allow teams that made a qualifying attempt to purchase a fresh set of tires to start Sunday’s Cup race.
The decision avoided all but penalizing teams that followed the rules.
Thirteen teams — more than a third of starting field — failed to pass inspection before qualifying and didn’t make an attempt Friday.
They had to start at the rear and on sticker tires.
That isn’t much of a penalty at Auto Club Speedway.
Sticker tires are faster. The more laps run on tires, the slower the car goes on Auto Club Speedway’s worn surface. Even a three-lap difference in laps run between the top 12 cars and those that didn’t make a qualifying attempt can be viewed as significant.
“It’s a huge advantage,’’ pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. said. “In my mind if you’re not probably in the top four, you are better off being 25th.’’
Also, it helps those in the back that Auto Club Speedway’s 2-mile track has as many lanes as a Los Angeles freeway, giving competitors options for passing opportunities.
Had this been at Martinsville Speedway, where the series races next week, the penalty would have been sufficient as is because a car would start the race nearly half a lap behind the leader and have limited lanes to move through traffic.
Saturday morning, NASCAR announced a revision for the Xfinity Series. NASCAR stated that any team that does not make a qualifying attempt will start from the rear of the field and be required to serve a pass-through penalty once the green flag waves. That all but likely would put the car a lap down at the start.
While it’s not always best for the series to change rules during an event, NASCAR’s decision Friday night (and Saturday morning with the Xfinity Series) was the best solution in a tough situation.