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NASCAR permits teams to use cooling machines during qualifying

NASCAR changing qualifying after safety concerns
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Brad Keselowski pulls out of pit row as his pit crew members finish changing his tires during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Las Vegas. Keselowski won the race. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NASCAR's new "knockout" qualifying format has been a success so far, drawing praise from both fans and drivers early in the season. But the one glaring flaw has been the fact that hot cars don't cool down fast enough between runs. This has forced drivers to take extra laps at school-zone speeds while other drivers are hammer-down full speed. Anyone who's come upon a driver doing 40 on the highway can see the potential safety issue here.

So NASCAR has moved to address that concern by allowing crews to hook up cooling units to the cars on pit road. NASCAR officials had resisted the idea in the past, saying that allowing teams to open the hood would make it too difficult to police teams. So this new change will allow cooling units to access the car through hood flaps, not by opening the hood itself.

It will be a welcome change for drivers, who were aware of the potential dangers. Brian Vickers called the combination qualifying/cooldown lap routine "the most dangerous thing I've ever done in a race car."

Las Vegas and Phoenix allowed for drivers to run cooldown laps around the inside apron of the track. Not every track is as broad, starting with this weekend at Bristol. It's a wise move for NASCAR, and one that will prevent an unexpected and totally unnecessary accident.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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