“It’s a mess,” Earnhardt said. “You have to be in the very back and try to get a big tow. I ain’t ever seen anything like it. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Risky, too. Several cars turned down pit road to get away from the disorder. But the most common concern was the speed differences, with some packs creeping along while others ran full speed.
“It was really wild and it was pretty dangerous,” Matt Kenseth said. “There’s car doing 80 and there were cars doing 200 and nobody wanted to go. Everybody wanted to be in the back of the pack and try to catch the front to get a (fast) lap, so it was pretty chaotic.”
Similar qualifying took place at Talladega in May, when teammates stuck together in hopes of besting the field. But drivers clearly tweaked some things from those sessions.
“There was just so much going on out there and it’s a wonder we haven’t wadded a bunch of cars up,” Brian Vickers said. “A lot of guys running even slower than at Talladega and then some guys even taking chances on blocking the field, which was what really almost caused a few wrecks.”
Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were among those who did not advance past the first stage. Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch also did not get to the second knockout round.
Joe Nemechek was the only driver who did not qualify for Saturday’s 400-mile race.
“It’s just about being lucky as to who can make it through and who gets the right run,” McMurray said. “It’s just so crazy that everyone pulls out and doesn’t go and then stops. It is what it is. Everyone has the same conditions. It just doesn’t feel like racing ... because half the time people are running 40 mph. I don’t even really know what to say because it’s so messed up that I can’t explain it.”