Single car qualifying is so 2013.
NASCAR announced significant changes to the structure of qualifying for its three national series on Wednesday. The new standard qualifying format will now include knockout qualifying, similar to the type of qualifying in place in Formula 1 and on IndyCar road courses.
At tracks over 1.25 miles in length, all drivers will have the opportunity to take to the track in a 25-minute qualifying session. The fastest 24 cars will then move on to an open 10-minute qualifying session. The 12 fastest cars from the second session will then qualify for five minutes. The winner of that session will be the polesitter.
At all tracks less than 1.25 miles, there is no middle round. All entrants will have the opportunity to qualify for 30 minutes and the fastest 12 drivers will have 10 minutes to see who can post the fastest speed.
The qualifying procedures will be in use at all NASCAR points races in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series with the exception of the Daytona 500 and the Truck race at Eldora. The changes mean that for most NASCAR races, qualifying will fit neatly into a one-hour television window. And, as the sanctioning body hopes, that one hour of viewing will be much more compelling than previous qualifying broadcasts.
Each qualifying session will have five-minute breaks between rounds. In those breaks, teams can make adjustments but they may not jack the car up or lift the hood. If a car enters the garage after a qualifying attempt, it may not re-enter the track. Teams will not be allowed to change tires between rounds.
Because of tire wear, speeds may be faster in the first round than in the final round. However, speeds will not carry over from sessions. Teams will line up on pit road to go out for the first session based off a random draw.
During a teleconference on Wednesday, NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton revealed that Sprint Cup Series cars will be allowed to draft during qualifying for both Talladega races and the July Daytona races. Since two or more cars nose-to-tail go faster than one car by itself, it's likely we'll see multiple cars lined up together during those qualifying sessions.
In the Nationwide and Truck Series, NASCAR will continue to space out drivers to prevent them from drafting.
New qualifying rules for @NASCAR 2014 season should really mix it up. I expect a lot more actions for fans and even more games from Teams.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) January 22, 2014
In each round of qualifying, teams will only be mandated to make one lap. Therefore, if Jimmie Johnson runs a fast lap on his first timed lap in the first session of qualifying, he and crew chief Chad Knaus may decide to wait out the rest of the session on pit road in the hopes that the time will advance Johnson to the next round.
If an incident occurs during qualifying and the red flag is thrown, the clock will be stopped and restarted when qualifying starts again. Once the clock expires in a session, drivers will be given the opportunity to complete the lap that they are currently on.
The provisional procedures and starting field sizes for all three of NASCAR's series are unchanged. The Sprint Cup field will stay at 43 cars while the Nationwide field remains at 40 and the Truck Series field remains at 36.
How do you like the new qualifying procedures? Drop us a line in the comments below or hit us at HappyHourMailbag@Yahoo.com.
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