Darby says modifications are possible to Top-35 qualifying rule

JOLIET, Ill. -- Nextel Cup director John Darby -- saying he was speaking for himself, not NASCAR -- didn't mince words Friday when asked about speculated changes to NASCAR's Top-35 rule.

"We ain't changing it," Darby said.

That doesn't mean, however, that NASCAR isn't contemplating some alterations to the current rule that guarantees a position in the race field to every team ranked among the top-35 in owner points that week.

One possibility is grouping "go or go home" cars together during the qualifying session, so all are faced with similar track conditions during their laps. Since a hotter, slicker track typically makes for a slower lap during time trials, a team that qualifies early may be at a disadvantage compared to one that qualifies late in the session.

Darby likes that idea.

"We're talking about that a lot," he said. "It makes it truly a head-to-head competition that way."

Where would they be grouped? One possibility, according to Darby: Let the championship driver or crew chief decide where in the session that respective group would qualify.

Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage.