NASCAR has announced it will use a new qualifying format, starting at the second round of the 2014 season in Phonex, in a bid to enhance the fans viewing experience both at the track and at home.
The new format will see a knockout system, similar to that used in Formula 1, in operation. At circuits over 1.25 miles, the top 24 qualifiers in an opening 25 minute session will make it through to Round 2, with the 12 fastest of the ten minute Round 2 making it through to a 5 minute shootout for pole.
A similar system will be in place for circuits under 1.25 miles, but this time only two sessions will be contested, with the top 12 cars from an opening 30 minute session making it into a ten minute session to contest Pole Position.
Top lap speeds will be reset after each session, with a five minute break between sessions at circuits longer than 1.25 miles, while circuits under 1.25 miles will feature a ten minute break.
“We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format across our three national series,” said vice president for competition and racing development, Robin Pemberton. “This style of group qualifying has all the makings of being highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television and online. For the drivers and teams, we believe this new qualifying will fuel even greater competition leading into the events. Additionally, it provides our tracks, broadcasters and other key partners with a greater opportunity to develop more entertaining content for our race weekends.”
Teams will only be allowed to make minor adjustments – rear wedge, track bar, tyre pressure, tape and plugging in oil – between sessions, and repairs cannot be made on pit road. If a car re-enters the garage, it will be removed from qualifying and its grid position will be decided by its top lap speed in the last completed session.
The new format will be in place across all three NASCAR national series, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. The fastest driver in the final round of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series qualifying will earn the Coors Light Pole Award, while the fastest driver in the final round of qualifying in the Truck Series will earn the Keystone Light Pole Award.
Only the Daytona 500, non-points Sprint Cup races and the Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway will not feature the new system, with each race having its own distinct qualifying format.