|No copyright infringement intended|
I was recently asked a very good question that I didn’t know the answer to, “Why are there forty-three cars in a Cup Series field?” I certainly never thought of that before. I honestly just assumed (I know, you should never assume) that it was based on something NASCAR decided a while ago and it just stuck. After some research, I found the answer I was looking for.
Some tracks could hold more cars; for example, Darlington, which could hold a lot more cars than, say, Bristol, and had more pit stalls for use. NASCAR eventually decided that the field needed to be standardized: consisting of thirty-six qualifiers and six provisionals, giving us a nice even number of forty-two.
The field of forty-two worked really well until 1990 when Richard Petty had trouble qualifying for the race. NASCAR then decided to create a new rule on-the-spot (much like they do today) called the “Champions Provisional” – which pretty much meant that if you were a champion in the series, you were granted a spot; and this helped Petty qualify for the race. The “Champions Provisional” could be used for the current or ex-champion; but could also be used for the car owner with the highest amount of points that wasn’t able to qualify based on their speed or lap time.
I’m sure everyone at one point or another wondered about this and either looked it up and got the wrong answer, or didn’t bother to look it up at all. So now you know why there are forty-three cars in the Cup Series field on race day.