Wheeler suggests putting more than one car on track during qualifying

Updated: May 26, 2007, 8:40 PM ET
By Marty Smith | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler is calling for NASCAR to add greater entertainment value to its qualifying format by placing more than one car on the racetrack at once.

Wheeler told ESPN.com Saturday that attendance for LMS pole day has steadily declined since 2001, and anticipates NASCAR will make some sort of alteration for 2008.

"It needs more drama," Wheeler said. "I understand why they do it, but the fact that you've already got 35 people [guaranteed] qualified takes a lot of that [drama] out.

"I think [NASCAR realizes] something needs to be done. It remains to be seen what, but I think something will be done next year."

Wheeler is alluding to NASCAR's Top-35 rule, which guarantees a starting position in each race to every car ranked among the top-35 in car owner points. Therefore, even if they're slower than some other cars attempting to qualify they still make the show.

Wheeler feels this reduces the zeal of pole day.

NASCAR officials are aware of this concern, and said they will evaluate qualifying procedures following the season.

Wheeler said awarding points for poles may help.

"That's one thing that needs to be looked at. I'd be in favor of that," he said.

But he thinks the best option is placing multiple cars on the track at once. He said he's thrown out ideas to NASCAR "for a couple years." One of which, he said, is to host four, 15-minute sessions, each including 25 percent of the cars in the field. Whoever is fastest overall wins the pole.

He isn't in favor of European style qualifying, however, which puts all cars on the track at once for a timed period.

"With transponders, you could put them all out there," he said. "But you don't want to do that like they do in road racing because that mixes the fans up. You need to make an event out of it.

"You have to constantly fine-tune things. People [criticize] us because we're always changing things. Well, there's nothing wrong with that. It's entertainment is all sports is. That's what this business is all about."

Marty Smith covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.