NASCAR is in the midst of some major changes, and one of those involves the qualifying format. It is considered by many to be incredibly boring and barely watchable, but that’s no longer the case. NASCAR has taken a page out of the Formula 1 notebook and has implemented an elimination-style qualifying session that will put fans on the edge of their seats and push the patience of the drivers to the absolute limit.
For tracks 1.25 miles in length or larger, there will be three rounds in qualifying. The first will last 25 minutes and include all cars. The 24 fastest cars from that session advance to the second round. Round two lasts 10 minutes, and the 12 fastest cars move on. The final round is just five minutes and the final 12 drivers will duke it out for the pole.
There will also be a five-minute break between each round where teams are allowed to make minor adjustments to the cars. The cars are not allowed to go the garage, the hood can’t be raised, fuel can not be added and the team can not jack up the car — only one set of tires are allowed per team for the entire session.
For tracks less than 1.25 miles in length, there will be two rounds in qualifying. The first will last 30 minutes and include all cars. The 12 fastest cars from that session advance. The next round is the final round and lasts 10 minutes; the fastest lap wins. There will also be a 10-minute break between the two rounds where teams are allowed to make minor adjustments to the cars.
The cars are not allowed to go the garage, the hood can’t be raised, fuel can not be added and the team can not jack up the car — only one set of tires are allowed per team for the entire session.
If a wreck occurs or there’s debris on the track, the red flag is displayed and the clock is frozen. This format applies to all three national series, but will not be used in the Daytona 500, non-points races and the Camping World Truck event at Eldora. Also, drafting is allowed at the plate tracks during qualifying. If the weather ends qualifying before it is complete, then the field is set by the results of most recent round.
This new format will increase the excitement of NASCAR qualifying exponentially, and most of the racing community has embraced it with a lot of enthusiasm and anticipation. It will bring in a lot more factors into qualifying, and it will no longer be a forgettable event.
Strategy is now a huge part of it, and tempers will likely flare with so many cars on the track at the same time. It’s going to produce some intriguing storylines throughout the year and some surprise pole-sitters too. Great move, NASCAR.
Nick DeGroot is a Contributing Writer for Rant Sports NASCAR. Connect With Him on Twitter @ndegroot89