After racing on short tracks, ovals, and the tricky triangle, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has reached that time of the year when it’s time to turn left and right. The road courses change up the racing style but this year, turning left and right won’t be the only thing different.
Prior to the start of the 2013 season, NASCAR made a couple of changes within its three national series. Nationwide Series made changes to its qualifying procedures, but so did the Cup Series. Beginning at Sonoma this upcoming weekend, the Cup Series will be introduced to a new qualifying format at the road courses.
Rather than the traditional one car at a time making a qualifying lap around the racetrack, the Cup Series will now have drivers qualify in separated groups of five or six who will go out together. Drivers will not be set up in any random order.
Beginning at Sonoma, the groups of drivers will be separated from fastest to slowest and the fastest car will go out first from each group. Each car will be make their qualifying lap within five-second intervals. NASCAR will be giving each group five minutes to make their qualifying laps. In case a driver is not done completing their lap within the five minutes, they will be allowed to complete it.
The field for Sunday will be set by qualifying speeds and with the fastest lap as the lap that locks them into the race.
The new qualifying procedures for the two road course races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen will be adding something new to the race weekends at the road courses. Having various drivers on the track at the same time adds some excitement into qualifying and it’s also something that doesn’t happen all the time.