Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rookie Stripe: What Does it Mean to be “On the Pole” in NASCAR?

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
by Logan Stewart

In NASCAR, being "on the pole" has nothing to do with dancing, a firehouse, opposing magnet points or the ends of the Earth. A pole position, however, is just as exciting as those things, if not more, and it sets the stage for race day.

For each NASCAR race, one driver is the pole sitter, earning the advantageous first place starting position on the grid, which is the lineup order of cars to start a race. The driver earns this honor by being the fastest in qualifying rounds of racing, usually held the day before a race. NASCAR uses a knockout-style system to determine who is on the pole. In this system, each team is allowed to make as many attempts at the fastest lap as they want during an allocated 20-minute round. The 24 cars with the quickest speeds go on to the second round, which lasts 10 minutes. Then the 12 fastest cars advance to round three. The pole sitter is determined by best speed in round three, and the rest of the starting lineup is set at that point as well. At road courses and superspeedways, with the exception of the Daytona 500, there are only two rounds of qualifying.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

There are many ways you might hear the first-place starting position referenced:

Starting from the pole
On the pole

Pole position
Pole sitter
Leading the field to green
Leading the grid


A driver's number of wins from the pole designates how many times he's won a race that he started from the pole position.


Other fun facts about the pole:

· Richard Petty has claimed the most poles of any single driver, with 123. He won 61 races from the pole.

· David Pearson is a close second to Petty in pole wins with 113, and Jeff Gordon is third with 81.

· The oldest pole winner was Harry Gant, who started on the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway when he was 54. He took ninth place in that race.

· As of August 6, 2016, a total of 2363 poles have been won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

You can find more pole stats like these at Jayski including pole records, streaks, top speeds and more.


Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

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