As a fan who grew up with the NASCAR of the 1980s and 1990s - the days before restrictor plates, top 35 "lock-ins" and "start-and-parks" - I was pleased to see some of the "new for 2013" competition changes that were recently announced by NASCAR's Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton. Chief among them: the top 35 Sprint Cup Series teams are no longer "locked into" the field.
"Early on when we looked at our top 35, we were going down a path of a more compressed weekend with our practices and qualifying, a number of the races were impounded," explained Pemberton in a recent NASCAR teleconference. "It's something that's served us well for a period of time…To go back and make the field the fastest 36 to get in the race, six provisionals and a champ's spot, we feel that's good. "
The new qualifying procedure, as stated by Pemberton, sets the first 36 spots in a 43-car field on speeds from qualifying; the next six drivers will qualify based on their team's owners' points. The remaining spot is for a past champion's provisional; if one is not needed, the spot goes to a seventh team based on owners' points. Also out in 2013: setting the qualifying line-up based on practice speeds, with the slowest car going out first and the fastest going last; qualifying order will return to the random draw. If an event is rained out, the field will be determined by practice speeds.
NASCAR is also changing its testing policy for 2013: teams will be allowed four tests per organization, and these tests can take place at Sprint Cup Series venues. Teams in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will be allowed two tests per organization at tracks where the series compete; teams with rookie of the year candidates receive an additional test.
Another change is coming to the Nationwide Series - the field is being cut from 43 cars to 40 cars, in what NASCAR refers to as "an effort to strengthen the ownership base and create a sense of urgency among teams to make races." Sprint Cup Series fields will remain at 43 cars and Truck Series fields will remain at 36 trucks.
Sources: "New qualifying format for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Highlights 2013 Competition Changes," NASCAR Media, October 16, 2012
"Transcript: Teleconference with Robin Pemberton," NASCAR Media, October 16, 2012
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.
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