Through two weeks, it's apparent that NASCAR's group qualifying procedures are more entertaining and intriguing than the one-by-one qualifying sessions that had been a NASCAR staple through 2013.
But it doesn't mean they're not a work in progress.
After Friday's qualifying session at Las Vegas, the first session at a 1.5 mile track, the length of circuit that dominates the Sprint Cup Series, drivers were still outspoken about an aspect of qualifying that NASCAR says it's not looking to change immediately.
Heck, Brian Vickers called it "the most dangerous thing I've ever done in a race car."
What's that aspect? In order to prevent teams from opening the hood on cars while they're stationed on pit road, NASCAR has outlawed teams from hooking up outside cooling systems to the cars. Therefore, teams have resorted to running laps at speeds you see cars in your neighborhood drive to cool their engines before making another qualifying attempt.
Clint Bowyer likes the knockout format and called it nerve-wracking. But he mentioned the speed discrepancy
"Not a huge fan of the cool down deal," Bowyer said. "I really hope that NASCAR looks at that — that first deal everybody’s out there going fast, you’re 200 miles an hour out there and cars that aren’t even running are running about 40 (MPH). Hopefully, we can make some adjustments there."
NASCAR VP Robin Pemberton said at Phoenix that some drivers had lobbied to keep the cooling systems outlawed as it increased the strategy involved with the amount of tape teams run on the grille. Plus, NASCAR wants teams making more than one lap per session, the longest of which is 35 minutes.
Thus, to do the extra attempts, teams are circling the track slowly. And NASCAR says a minimum speed wouldn't help.
If you look at what it takes to cool the engine down, if you make them pick the speed up, the engine is not going to cool down, that's just adding to the issues to out there," NASCAR VP Robin Pemberton said. "You can be in the way if you're only 10 miles an hour off the pace and not 100 miles an hour off the pace. We'll look at (this issue)."
After he won the pole Friday, Joey Logano suggested the sanctioning body allow hookups to plug into the hood flaps on engines. That would prevent the hood from being lifted on cars, but also allow them to be cooled on pit road.
Vegas has room on the apron for slow cars on a cool-down lap to bail out of the way from a car making a qualifying. Bristol and Martinsville, site of two of the next three races, don't. To prevent risking a wreck between cars with a massive speed disparity, some teams may just make one attempt and hope for the best.
Or we could see a halftime lull of sorts in the first round of qualifying like at Phoenix, where approximately halfway through the session, the only cars out on the track were ones driving a slow speed. While it certainly is part of the strategy aspect of the new qualifying rules, it's not part of the entertainment one.
And another change we'd be on board with? Parking the cars facing the race track on pit road. Currently, the noses of the cars are parked facing the pit wall. With no pit-road-speed limit in effect and drivers hurriedly backing out to get out to the track, it can be a tad chaotic. The backing up seems superfluous.
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