NASCAR returning to single-car oval qualifying

by Justin Nguyen

With the variety of confusion during its qualifying sessions so far in 2019, NASCAR will return to single-car qualifying for oval courses effective immediately. On Wednesday, sport officials announced the change for all three NASCAR national series (Monster Energy CupXfinityGander Outdoors Truck). The elimination-style multi-round system has also been dropped. NASCAR had unveiled changes to the format before the 2019 season began.

For ovals longer than 1.25 miles (2.01 km) like Darlington Raceway, cars will attempt one timed lap. For those shorter (World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway being the threshold), two laps will be run. As road courses, tracks like Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International will continue with the multi-round qualifying, a format that had been in place before it was applied to all tracks.

“It was (a) unified (decision) between broadcasters, teams and NASCAR,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller stated.

The 2019 season has been plagued by various qualifying drama. With NASCAR’s new rules package for the Cup Series in 2019, drafting has proven to be a vital asset when setting a time, prompting many to not risk being the first driver on track and setting a slower time than their slipstream-receiving competition.

For example, March’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway featured a starting grid set by second-round times rather than the usual third-round times as every driver failed to complete a lap in the latter. NASCAR attempted to resolve the situation later in the month at Texas Motor Speedway, but more chaos ensued as multiple drivers were penalised for pit road infractions.

“One of the other things to make a compelling program out of it is we’ve seen the use of the ghost car (on television),” Miller said. “That’s going to be a big element in presenting a quality show. I think fans are going to be able to see which drivers drive in deep, which drivers roll the middle faster and get off the corners faster and really give the talent in the booth something to talk about.”

The first weekend with the revised format will be the tripleheader at Dover International Speedway.

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