Sprint Cup road courses to use group qualifying

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will implement the group road-course qualifying procedure used in NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Touring Series competition during its road-course events at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International, NASCAR announced Monday.

Cars will qualify in groups instead of the single-car qualifying runs used at oval race tracks.

The new format will debut with the Toyota Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 23 and will also be used at Watkins Glen for the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen on August 11.

"The change will add an exciting element to road-course qualifying," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "Fans will be treated to new strategy and increased competition with several cars on track at once."

Under the group qualifying procedure, cars attempting to qualify will be divided into groups, with group assignments based on final practice times. Each qualifying group will be on the track for a set period of time, determined by the series director. A car's best lap time during the group session will be the qualifying lap time of record.

"This is going to be a terrific new format for our NASCAR weekend," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. "It will intensify the action, with multiple cars on the track at the same time. It's a very positive development for our fans."