Published on January 27, 2014

NASCAR opts for knockout-style qualifying this season

By Al Pearce, Crain News Service

DETROIT (Jan. 27, 2014) — NASCAR has junked its ages-old, single-car qualifying format in favor of a convoluted system that will often change from track to track.

The organization said the change will reduce the lengthy, oft-times boring and unrelenting full-field qualifying from upwards of two hours to less than an hour. The new format for all series announced Jan. 22 will be in effect for all tracks except next month for Sprint Cup at Daytona International Speedway and the mid-summer Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the new format will be "more fan-friendly" and provide "better competition" and "will be better for everyone—television, fans, track owners, sponsors and teams."

He added: "We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format. This style of group qualifying has all the makings of being highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television and online.

"For the drivers and teams, we believe this new qualifying will fuel even greater competition leading into the events. Additionally, it provides our tracks, broadcasters and other key partners with a greater opportunity to develop more entertaining content for our race weekends."

Mr. Pemberton said teams will be limited to one set of tires for the entire qualifying session. In addition, teams may make adjustments only during the short breaks between sessions, not once a session has begun. Additionally, those adjustments will be limited to wedge and track bar movement—and tire pressures. Hoods cannot be raised except to made front-end adjustments.

Also, there will be no restriction on teams drafting in order to post a better time, and NASCAR will carefully monitor what appears to be blocking or intentionally getting in another driver's way.

Here's NASCAR's official breakdown of the new qualifying rules:

At tracks measuring 1.25 miles in length or larger, qualifying for the Coors Light Pole Award will consist of three rounds:

• The first qualifying elimination round will be 25 minutes in duration and includes all cars/trucks. The 24 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap from the first qualifying round will advance to the second round.

• The remaining cars/trucks will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.

• The second qualifying elimination round will be 10 minutes in duration and the 12 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap time will advance to the third and final round. The fastest remaining cars/trucks earn positions 13 through 24 based on their times posted in qualifying in descending order.

• The third and final qualifying round will be five minutes in duration, and the fastest single lap time will determine positions one through 12 in descending order.

• There will be a five-minute break between each qualifying round.

At tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles, qualifying for the Coors Light Pole Award will consist of two rounds:

• The first qualifying elimination round will be 30 minutes in duration and includes all cars/trucks. The 12 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap time from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round.

• The remaining cars/trucks will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.

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

• The second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time posted will determine positions one through 12 in descending order.

Note: The new qualifying format does not apply to the Daytona 500, which will preserve its historic and unique qualifying format, NASCAR said. Additionally, it does not apply to non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway.

This article appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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