By Austin Knoblauch
Tribune News Service
The changes NASCAR has made to make racing more interesting for fans has yet to find much acceptance among its drivers.
Based on what happened Sunday during pole qualifying for the Daytona 500, it's safe to say Clint Bowyer isn't a fan of NASCAR's new knockout group qualifying for the race.
Before three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon went on to claim the pole for next weekend's race, Bowyer and Reed Sorenson saw their front-row hopes dashed when they collided and triggered a big crash in the closing minutes of the first round of knockout qualifying.
The crash occurred when Sorenson, at the head of a pack of cars, tried to block Bowyer from passing him. It also involved the cars driven by Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley and Bobby Labonte.
After the smoke cleared, Bowyer got out of his car and exchanged words with Sorenson before heading to the infield medical center. Bowyer later unleashed his full fury at NASCAR for its decision to go to a new qualifying format.
"It's just idiotic to be out here doing this anyway," Bowyer said. "There is no sense in being able to try and put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is, then you've got a guy out there in desperation doing crap like this. ... It's stupid. There's no sense in doing this."
Tony Stewart echoed Bowyer's comments on Twitter: "Today used to be about showcasing the hard work from the teams over the winter. Now it (is) a complete embarrassment for our series."
Sorenson took blame for causing the crash, saying he was trying too hard to stay in front of Bowyer.
"I didn't mean to wreck anybody or anything like that," said Sorenson, who probably will not race in the Daytona 500 since he doesn't have a backup car. "It's just a product of this type of qualifying."
Gordon, meanwhile, said his pole position was "one of the most gratifying poles here at Daytona that I've ever had."