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NASCAR’s New Qualifying Format Makes Sense

NASCAR’s New Qualifying Format Makes Sense

by January 22, 2014 0 comments

NASCAR has explored with the qualifying procedures in recent years, trying to bring excitement to the lone show on Friday afternoons at most racetracks.

From locking in the Top 35 in points, to grouping the “Go or Go Home” cars together and qualifying last.  All these attempts have brought about little success to spice up how NASCAR determines the starting lineup for it’s top three series.

Well, things have changed. And I would say they’ve changed for the better.

In 2014, NASCAR will use a similar version of knockout qualifying that Formula 1 has used in previous seasons.

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 13th through 24th 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 1st through 12th in descending order.
  • There will be a five-minute break between each qualifying round.

At tracks measuring less than 1.25 milesqualifying 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 1st through 12th in descending order.

The new qualifying format will be used in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Daytona 500 qualifying, along with the Eldora Truck race will use the qualifying format from 2013.

While the move doesn’t come as a shock, what does come as a shock is the fact that NASCAR made a move that makes logical sense.

We’ve eliminated multi hour qualifying sessions.  Each qualifying session should only take a little under an hour to complete now.  That means no more three-hour qualifying session at Daytona and Talladega.

Drivers will not have the luck of the draw anymore.  Yes, no more catching a cloud or praying you have a late afternoon draw.  Qualifying, on paper, should take right at 50 minutes.

I don’t know if you’ve caught a Formula 1 qualifying session on Saturday mornings or afternoons, depending on the time.  Usually, the last session of the day brings about high drama as teams and drivers go for the top spot. Things will be no different in NASCAR land.

With such a small window to put down a pole run, I think it’s going to come down to who gets a clean track as 12 guys battle for the pole.

While most traditionalists will be up in arms at any changes, I for one welcome the change that will bring excitement and have fans glued to the TV at least for an hour on afternoons that would usually find them doing something else other than qualifying.

As Brad Keselowski pointed out on Twitter, do folks not remember the days in the late 90’s when NASCAR had two days of qualifying, that was essentially knockout qualifying?  This is just a return to those roots, and an extenuating of it.

Remember the days of two day qualifying and the top 25 was locked in on Friday, sending the rest of the field to Saturday qualifying?  This is just a reverse of that.  Instead of qualifying for the pole first, we’ll do so last now.

I’m all for adding excitement in a sport that in recent years could use it.  This move makes tons of sense from that standpoint.

I for one applaud NASCAR for trying to spice things up and bring in fans that otherwise would not waste the time or money to sit in the stands on afternoons that feature nothing but practice and qualifying.

Time will tell, but for now, this new format seems really good on paper.  As somebody that loves the sport, I hope NASCAR is willing to stick to this format for qualifying over the previous one used for years.

Chris Owens
For years, Chris has been traveling the country shooting photos capturing some of the sport's most unique moments and writing articles about grassroots racing and the NASCAR. Chris is the track photographer for Dillon Motor Speedway, and he has created websites for regional racing media outlets as well as for a few clients in the various traveling Late Model divisions. He also created a website for NASCAR Nationwide Series driver, Danny Efland.

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