NASCAR announced on Friday that practice and qualification will return to most weekend race schedules in 2022.
For most of the Cup schedule, NASCAR will split the field into two groups with practice and qualification sessions lasting about two hours total. In an effort to maximize weekend efficiency, Cup practices will last only 15 minutes on ovals and 20 minutes on road courses.
"We worked closely with our broadcast partners, teams and racetracks to create an exciting, unique qualifying format, while keeping several of the efficiencies that helped our entire industry successfully navigate the pandemic," said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition.
The field for the Daytona 500 will be set in its usual manner, but practice will not be held for the other carburetor-restricted races at Daytona and Talladega. Qualification will be held for these events, however, with single car laps.
The groups will be determined by the previous week's race. Drivers who finished in odd positions will be in Group A and those in even positions in the other.
On ovals and road courses, qualification will be a version of knockout sessions, like previous seasons have featured. Groups A and B will have single-car qualification sessions on ovals with the top five drivers advancing to a final round; multi-car sessions will occur on the road courses. Bristol, Dover, Martinsville, and Richmond will have two laps of qualifying. On plate tracks, all cars will participate in the first session, with 10 advancing into the final round.
A handful of events will have extended practices that last 50 minutes and include all cars. These events are the Daytona 500, Atlanta's first race, the Bristol dirt race, the inaugural race at Gateway, Nashville, and the season finale at Phoenix. Bristol will host two 50-minute sessions with heat races setting the lineup for the Main.
It is unclear how this will affect handicaps, but it will certainly be interesting to watch it unfold. There is no such thing as too little data; we just have to figure out how to use it.
While fifteen minutes is not a lot of time, it is more than drivers had for most of the past two seasons - and that data goes into creating a deeper pool. Qualification will insure fast cars start up front. That additional data will undoubtedly trigger some weekend line movements that could change the value proposition on several drivers. Moreover, it will reward teams that come to the track most prepared.