It’s been said that getting better is a constant work in progress.
By instituting a rule recently to award championship points for the top five finishing positions in heat races, Valenti Modified Racing Series director Scott Tapley immediately improved the qualifying procedure for the division.
But a little more work needs to be done.
There are legions in motorsports who refuse to budge from the opinion that championship points should never be awarded in any way for qualifying efforts.
You can look at a lot of reasons why it’s a good idea and why it’s not, but the fact is, awarding points for qualifying efforts fully legitimizes any division’s qualifying procedure as a true part of the overall competition surrounding that series. And that’s not a bad thing.
In too many aspects of motorsports today, from the highest levels of stock car racing to short tracks across the country, qualifying – in whatever procedure it might take place – has essentially become an extension of practice that sets or helps to set a starting order.
For so many divisions of racing, the days of qualifying procedures being a competition to actually get into the event are long gone.
Since its inception 10 years ago, management around the Valenti Modified Racing Series has trumpeted its use of heat races as a qualifying procedure as one of the top attractive qualities of the division. And with good reason. It adds an element short track fans have long clung to as near and dear to the grassroots history of motorsports, though an element most touring divisions long have long left behind.
But over the last two seasons sandbagging has become commonplace in heat race action in the division. So much so that Tapley saw the practice becoming not just a matter of sapping away the true competitive element of the qualifying events, but also an issue of safety as drivers gave up even making even a cursory effort in attempts to save their equipment for the features.
To bring an element of competition back, or at least force the hand of championship contenders in some fashion, Tapley instituted a rule last month to award five points to each heat race winner, four points to second place finishers and so on down a point for each position to fifth place, which awards one point.
In a division where a race winner earns 50 points, that five points for winning a heat race can be a huge factor. And in a division like the Valenti Modified Racing Series right now, it’s a huge deal considering Rowan Pennink and Tommy Barrett Jr. are embroiled in a super tight points battle. With eight events remaining Pennink holds a four point lead over Barrett as each tries to get their first series title.
Saturday at the Waterford Speedbowl the new qualifying points rule was in place for its second event and for the second consecutive event one could see a real change in the competition factor going on in the qualifying heats.
But there’s a problem with the procedure. There’s a randomness factor that needs to be fixed immediately.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series uses a blind draw system to set the starting fields for their heat races. It’s not the greatest system to have, but it became an even more glaring detriment to the division when the rules were changed to allow for points being awarded in qualifying events.
If the series is going to use a system where a championship could essentially be decided by the result of heat race, then setting the fields for those heat races cannot be random.
There’s nothing fair about a system where one driver chasing a championship could start 11th in a heat race with his or her chief competition starting first in another heat race all because of drawing numbers.
It’s all new territory that the series is dancing in with the new rule, but luckily for them, after two events, nothing crazy has happened because of the system. But before something does happen series officials need to modify procedures to have a system in place to set heat fields in some sort of fashion that removes the blind draw.
Set the fields by points, set them by practice speeds, set them by something that is a known and understood commodity and not a blind draw.
There’s $10,000 on the line this year for the Valenti Modified Racing Series champion, and there should be no chance that the prize gets decided by a random draw. The Valenti Modified Racing Series a far better series than to accidentally turn the championship hunt into a glorified Bingo game.