The Backstretch Blog: Mama said knock you out

Published On: Mar 02 2014 02:07:24 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 02 2014 02:46:46 PM CST

Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Jimmie Johnson preview this week's race at Phoenix

Don’t call it a comeback.  Oh wait, if Brad Keselowski comes back and makes a run through to the Chase the for the Championship field, that is exactly what you would call it. But I digress.

First of all, I know I’m late with this blog. That’s what two days and 20 hours of state high school racing will do. But even as I sit here watching the NASCAR pre-race show, I feel the need to reflect of Friday’s first ever “knockout” qualifying session.  No more single car runs.

“That (qualifying) had become stale and it needed help,” said Clint Bowyer. “There's no way getting around it.”

I couldn’t agree more with my fellow Kansan on this one. Qualifying had become like this necessary evil that at some of the bigger track had become a drawn out and yes boring marathon of car after car running alone on the track. And really is that racing?

"It is a lot more nerve-wracking and there is usually a pretty good rule of thumb that if it is a lot more nerve-wracking for drivers then it is usually a lot more fun for fans and partners and all those things,” said pole sitter Brad Keselowski. “That is a good thing. I am more curious the feedback we will get from our fans and everyone as to whether or not they like it. “

This fan likes it. And I have to believe BK and his Penske racing teammate Joey Logano like, too. At least after one week. Not only did they sweep the front row, but they were really strong throughout the knock out rounds.

But will that translate to race success? That is something that is yet to be determined about this new qualifying format.

Jimmie Johnson leads the way among drivers with four Phoenix wins. Kevin Harvick has three wins and last week’s winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has two. Jeff Gordan and Carl Edwards also have a pair a wins, with Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart each owning a single win.

“It’s always great to be back at a track where you and a team have had so much success,” said Johnson. “With the reconfiguration of this track, it’s been hit or miss for us. We feel good about what we have."