In an effort to improve the fan experience, NASCAR will implement a knock-out qualifying system for all three national touring divisions in 2014.
At all tracks measuring 1.25 miles or greater, there will be three rounds of qualifying. The first will include all cars/trucks and will last 25 minutes, followed by a five minute break. The fastest 24 cars/trucks in the first round will make up the field for the second round of qualifying that is 10 minutes, also to be followed by a five minute break. The third and final round will only be 5 minutes and includes the 12 fastest cars/trucks from round two.
Tracks that are less than 1.25 miles will only have two rounds of qualifying. All cars/trucks will participate in a 30 minute session, followed by a 10 minute break and a second round that will include the 12 fastest cars/trucks from round one. The second and final round will only be 10 minutes long.
“The new qualifying format will take time trials to a completely new level,” said Chip Wile, president of Darlington Raceway. “It provides our race fans another exciting element within the race weekend. The idea of determining a pole winner with three qualifying rounds at a unique place like Darlington Raceway will require both skill and focus. Especially in the final five-minute segment! NASCAR has made an innovative change that has the race fan in mind and I applaud their efforts. I think all of our race fans will enjoy the new format during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend at the track ‘Too Tough to Tame’ on April 11-12.”
For the first round each weekend, the cars/trucks will be lined up on pit road by random draw. In-between each segment, teams can’t jack up the car or lift the hood. However, they can make wedge, tire pressure, track bar, tape adjustments as well as plug in oil.
If a driver happens to be caught up in an accident, he/she will not be able to participate any further throughout the rounds if the car is damaged too severely to continue. There will be no repairs on pit road or in the garage. NASCAR will stop the clock if the red flag comes out for an accident. The managing director of the series can also stop the clock at his/her discretion.
The provisional system as well as pit stall selection will remain the same. If qualifying is rained out, then the field will start the race based on the rule book, but if rain cancels qualifying and at least one round is complete, then qualifying is over, and the field will start the race based on the most recent qualifying round.
The new qualifying procedures will not apply to the Daytona 500, non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.
“We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format across our three national series,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president for competition and racing development. “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.”
Not only will the concept be more entertaining for the fans, but it’ll also keep qualifying down to only 50 minutes. NASCAR has done Euro qualifying in previous years at road courses, but they’ve never had a knockout qualifying session.