It's a little detail to a rule that will have everyone talking. It's a detail that will be known simply as the Danica Patrick Clause. What am I talking about? It's simple. NASCAR has changed the qualifying format back to the way it used to be. The 36 fastest cars will start the race with six provisional starters set by owner points and one spot left open for the most recent past champion. Provisionals were earned by how many attempts a team made. Usually a team got four provisionals to start the season and one for every six races they attempted. Once teams were out of provisionals they could no longer use one.
The limits to the provisionals were done so teams didn't use 20 provisionals if they had to. It was almost like the current past champions provisional limit. Currently, each past champion per season has six provisionals they can use for the season. If they use six, they can no longer rely on the past champions provisional to make the race. It was a good limit. However, NASCAR learned from the past that Danica Patrick would miss races due to this limit.
What am I talking about? Ask World of Outlaw Legend Steve Kinser.
You see Steve Kinser is one of, if not, the best sprint car driver to ever walk this planet. In 1995, however, Kinser wanted to do something different. He decided he would move to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and run on asphalt.
Kinser would be driving for an established team known as King Racing, a team that was owned by drag racing star Kenny Bernstein. With funding coming from Quaker State it looked like the team could have the potential to do big things for the 1995 season.
However, the high hopes turned quickly. Kinser would struggle badly. He was qualifying poorly, tearing up a lot of equipment and running badly. In his first five races, Kinser would finish in the top 40 twice. By the time the Cup series moved to the tough Bristol Motor Speedway, Kinser's team was extremely low in owner points and would have to qualify for the race on his time. He was slow and missed the race. The following weekend, Kinser would miss at the New Wilkesboro Speedway. It was then that Kinser and Bernstein realized that something needed to change. So the team would hire Hut Stricklin to finish out the season, while Kinser went back to the World Of Outlaws, where he continued his impressive career.
Kinser's cup try was a disappointment, but it wasn't because he was a lousy driver. Anyone who has seen Kinser race will tell you he has just as much talent as anyone. The problem with Kinser was he was inexperienced in the Cup Series. He didn't have any Busch/Nationwide Series starts or any ARCA starts. Kinser stated in a 1995 issue of Winston Cup Scene that that was his biggest challenge.
"I guess I didn't realize when you go see those tracks for the first time, you can't go jump in and go that fast to start with," he said. "You've got to have seen a Bristol or some place like that in a Busch (Nationwide) car or something. It's just tough to jump in there and know what you're doing."
It would have been interesting to see someone with as much talent as Kinser in the Cup Series. He would have brought a lot of new fans to the world of NASCAR and the series would have been better off.
It's a similar situation to what Danica Patrick will have to do in the Cup Series in 2013. She is a rookie and will be going to a lot of the Cup tracks for the first time. With backing from GoDaddy.com there is no doubt that Patrick would be running full-time in the Cup Series no matter what happens. If you look at Patrick's qualifying attempts through the 2012 season she has attempted to qualify for seven races. In five of those seven races Patrick was 36th or slower.
If she did that in the first seven races next year Patrick would be out of provisionals by the time the Cup Series got to the eighth race of the season. She wouldn't earn another one until the 12th race of the season.
Without limits however, Patrick is extremely less likely to miss a race and will most likely have the full season to make the races. It's something Steve Kinser wishes he had, if he did, he might have stayed in the Cup Series. The clause will forever be known as the "Danica Patrick Clause."
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