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NASCAR changes qualifying to knockout style found in Formula One

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NASCAR has announced a new concept for qualifying geared towards providing a more fan friendly and exciting qualifying session for the race event.

It will be a substantial change to what NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series has used for most of its history, qualifying will no longer be based on a two-lap, solo ran around the track.

Popularized in both Indy Car and Formula One racing, NASCAR will use knockout qualifying to set the field, beginning the week after the Daytona 500.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition and Racing Development, stated, “NASCAR fans will be treated to highly competitive, elimination based qualifying segments that will be more engaging to fans in the stands and those watching on TV and online. The new format will consist of either two or three rounds of elimination, depending on the track line.”

“With the final round consisting of 12 vehicles battling it out for the right to earn either the Coors Light Pole Award or the Keystone Light Pole Award. With the exception of the Daytona 500 and Eldora, which are unique in their own right.”

All three of the national touring series will see this new format for qualifying, that is resembles more closely to actual on track competition and underlines the sport’s on-going participation and commitment to innovation.

NASCAR first previewed the concept of group qualifying with the national series teams late last fall and it expects this new format will be well received among the fans, competitors, tracks, sponsors and media partners alike.

“We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format across our three national series,” Pemberton said. “This style of group qualifying has all the making of being highly competitive…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.”

Pemberton included, “We’ve taken the time to talk to drivers and crew chiefs, and what we surmised from that is you should be able to adjust wedge and track bar, tire pressures and tape strategies. The consensus was to not go under the hood and make other extreme adjustments. And the adjustments can only be made during the breaks…and there will only be one set of tires for all two or three sessions.”

At tracks measuring 1.25 miles in length or larger, qualifying for the Coors Light Pole Award will consist of three rounds:

  • The first qualifying elimination segment will be 25 minutes in length and includes all cars/trucks. The 24 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap from the first qualifying round will advance to the second round.
  • The cars/trucks, who do not advance will be sorted from the 25th position down based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.
  • The second qualifying elimination segment will be 10 minutes in length and the 12 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap time will advance to the third and final round.
  • The cars/trucks will eliminated will earn positions 13th through 24th based on their times posted during the second qualifying round in descending order.
  • The third and final qualifying elimination segment will last 5 minutes in length and the fastest single lap time will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order.
  • Between each qualifying segment there will be a five minute break.

With tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles, qualifying for the Coors Light Pole Award will consist of two rounds:

  • The first qualifying elimination round will be 30 minutes in length and includes all cars/trucks. The 12 cars/trucks that post the fastest single lap time from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round.
  • The remaining cars/trucks that do not advance will be sorted from positions 13th on down their positions will be based on their times posted in descending order.
  • There will then be a 10 minute break between the two qualifying segments.
  • The second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes in length and the fastest single lap time posted will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order.

The new qualifying format does not apply to the Daytona 500; it will preserve its unique and historic qualifying format as well as non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event held at Eldora Speedway.

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