NASCAR Alters Qualifying


NASCAR's new qualifying procedure will stretch among its top three series, including the Sprint Cup Series. (Photo: Getty Images)


NASCAR will institute knockout qualifying this season for all three of its national series, officials announced Wednesday.

The only races that will not use this format will be the Daytona 500, the two non-points Sprint Cup races and the Camping World Truck race at Eldora Speedway.

NASCAR’s new qualifying procedure is similar to what Formula 1 and IndyCar use. The new format replaces the single-car qualifying that had been used.

Here is how the qualifying format will work at tracks 1.25 miles in length and longer.

  • The first session is open to all cars and lasts 25 minutes.
  • The fastest 24 cars in the first segment advance. Their times are reset. The second round will last 10 minutes. This will set positions 13-24. 
  • The fastest 12 cars in the second segment advance to the final round. Times are reset. This determines the top 12 starting spots.

There will be a five-minute break between each rounds. 

For tracks less than 1.25 miles in length, the format will be condensed into two segments.

  • The first session is open to all cars and last 30 minutes.
  • The fastest 12 cars advance to the final round. Times reset. This round determines the top 12 starting spots. 

There will be a 10-minute break between the two rounds.

Teams can only make adjustments during the breaks. Teams will be able to adjust only wedge, track bar, tire pressure and tape on the car. Teams also can plug in oil on pit road. A team cannot jack the vehicle or raise the hood.

Teams are not not allowed to make repairs on pit road. If a vehicle is involved in an incident and goes to the garage, it is not allowed to return for qualifying. A car that goes to the garage will be positioned in the starting lineup based on its top lap speed in the last round it completed.

If there is an incident during qualifying, NASCAR will stop the session and resume the allotted time when the track is clear. 

Once time ends in a session and a driver is still on their lap, they are allowed to complete it. Teams must follow the same pit entry, pit exit and pit road speed requirements for the event. Cars can make multiple runs in the sessions. If qualifying is canceled, the starting lineup will be set by the rule book.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, said that teams will be limited to one set of tires for qualifying. Pemberton acknowledges that with only one set of tires for qualifying, the pole speed could be slower than speeds in the first round. 

Pemberton also said that teams could draft in qualifying sessions at tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

He said that no points will be given to the pole-winner - as has been the case. The pole-winner, though, will continue to get first pick of pit stalls for the race. Provisionals will remain and be the same as this past season.

Jeff Burton, speaking Tuesday night on Motor Racing Network’s “NASCAR Live’’ said that series officials needed to make changes to qualifying.

“It is boring,’’ Burton said. “I don’t care what anybody says. How many people come and watch it anymore? I like the idea of knockout qualifying where the slowest 12 cars don’t advance to the next round and then we do it again. I think that’s a great idea. It’s made F1 qualifying way more fun to watch.’’

Clint Bowyer said he likes the changes.

“Heck, I’m all for anything that makes it fun not only the fans but the drivers and teams too,’’ he said. “This is really going shake things up on Fridays – in a good way.’’

Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway applauds the changes.

“I think the direction NASCAR has taken on a new qualifying format is exactly what we need and I applaud them for taking this step. These two qualifying sessions will be pressure-packed for the teams and drivers which will make it very exciting for the fans to watch.’’

Pemberton said series officials considered qualifying races and other ideas before settling on this format.

“We felt like this format was going to service us the best right now,’’ he said. “We looked at a lot of different things. It kept pointing to this.’’

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