Following a less than stellar adoption of the new qualifying procedure at the first three races of the season, NASCAR notified its teams on Tuesday, March 11, that changes were going to be made to the knock-out qualifying starting at Bristol.
Because of the overheating issues experienced by some teams, one cool down unit connected through either the left side or right side hood flap/cowl flap would be allowed to cool the engine. However, the hood must continue to remain closed, and plugging in the generator will not be allowed. In addtion, two crew members will be allowed over the wall to support the car and driver, and no cool down laps will be permitted.
"There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare our cars. It's obvious that we get some equipment from other sources, and it's our responsibility to prepare the car for the track. We've made more investments back into the team to get ahead of rules changes and make sure we have fast cars," stated Marcos Ambrose of the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports(RPM) team.
NASCAR instituted a new group qualifying format for its three national series in January and has continued to evaluate the process through the first three races of the season. The new format has been well-received by fans, competitors, race tracks and other key stakeholders. NASCAR believes that the modifications should help make the qualifying even better and more compelling.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The real test will come on Friday, March 14 at 4:30 p.m., when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series take to the track for Coors Light pole qualifying. It can be seen on FOX Sports 1, and heard on PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
"Qualifying is going to be wild. It'll be my first time taking a crack at it with this new knock-out qualifying procedure. It looks like it's been pretty eventful at the tracks so far this year, and Bristol is a completely different animal. I'm going to try not to think about it too much. Just get a good lap in that gets the car in the show and then hopefully not have to worry about it anymore," stated David Reutimann, driver of the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford.
On Saturday, March 15, the NASCAR Nationwide Series moves to the half-mile, high-banked Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for a 300-lap race, and ESPN2 will have a live telecast. ESPN2 will air NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying at 10 a.m., with NASCAR Countdown airing at 1:30 p.m. ET featuring host Nicole Briscoe with analysis by Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven. The green flag will fly at 2:13 p.m.
All NASCAR programming on ESPN networks is available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Apple TV and Roku via WatchESPN, accessible to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliate provider. The race telecast will air delayed on ESPN Deportes at 4 a.m. on Sunday, March 9, and live in Canada on TSN2 at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
"Bristol is a fun place. I like the shorter tracks. It's just one of those places that you need to get everything right. The line there has moved up too, and I've noticed that the Nationwide drivers really like to run the higher groove there. Usually, everyone starts off practice running the bottom and then move up before it's over to make sure that your car is going to work in both areas and to make sure you're able to pass and run well anywhere on the track. I'm really excited because I think we'll be good there," added Dakoda Armstrong, who will have a new sponsor as Fresh from Florida will make their 2014 debut on the No. 43 Ford Mustang for their first of three primary races this season.
Fans will have a chance to ask Armstrong their questions at the Ford Racing Display located in the Fan Zone at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 15th from 9:15 to 9:30 a.m. ET.
On Sunday, March 16 at 1:00 p.m., the stars of the NASCAR Sprint up take to the track, with live coverage on FOX, PRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
"Some guys want to see the older Bristol come back. But from a racer's point of view, I've had a blast the last couple of races at Bristol. So, I'm happy to see it coming up on the schedule this week and we will have our Dockside Logistics Ford ready," added David Ragan, driver of the No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford. "We'll have some celebrity help bringing us some luck this week. For those who watch 'Shipping Wars' on A&E, we've got Jennifer Brennan joining us for the race on Sunday. She's a big race fan and she's super excited to come to one of the coolest tracks on the schedule."
RacingLive! on ESPN.com is a live blog where fans can engage in debate and discussion with ESPN.com writers and editors during the NASCAR Sprint Cup races. On Sunday, March 16, RacingLive! Bristol will coincide with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. ESPN.com motorsports writer Brant James will report from Bristol.
"With the new rule changes this year, I think it's going to produce better racing there. NASCAR's ultimate goal is to make the cars drive better, which will, in turn, produce better racing. If you've got three or four guys' cars that are driving good and the rest of the field is struggling, it doesn't put on a real good race. But we feel like the cars are going to drive better and it's going to put on a better show. David (Ragan) and I have both had some really strong runs at Bristol, and I look forward to going back there, " commented David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Long John Silver's Ford.
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