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NASCAR's new qualifying format debuts at Phoenix

Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 5th for the Profit on CNBC 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 5th for the Profit on CNBC 500
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series introduced a new qualifying format, effective for this Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. On Friday evening Brad Keselowski won the pole for Sunday's race..

The new qualifying format is a big departure from the previous incarnation. Before Friday evening NASCAR qualifying consisted of a lone driver doing a warm up lap and then one to two timed laps. The quickest lap time was then compared to the rest of the drivers and placed in order from 1 to 43.

The new format is a bit more interesting then its predecessor.

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At Phoenix and other shorter tracks, qualifying will take place in a two-stage process. The first qualifying elimination round will be 30 minutes in duration and includes all cars (or trucks). The 12 cars that post the fastest single lap time from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round, while the remainder of the field will be set based on their speeds posted during that 30-minute period, from fastest to slowest.
Following a 10-minute break in which teams may make minor changes such as adding oil or fuel, but may not open the hood or jack up the vehicle, the top 12 cars will head back onto the track for a 10-minute dash for the pole. The fastest single lap times during that session will determine the starting order from first through 12th.

Overall the new qualifying got positive reviews from the drivers involved.

“As far as the format, I thought it was pretty interesting,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I think it was fun. I think the team enjoyed it. My team commented that they all really enjoyed the process. I don't know how it played out on TV or how it came across on the broadcast but it was pretty fun.”

NASCAR's new format will be implemented for the NSCS, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series.

It seems that the powers that be are looking for a new way to make qualifying enticing for their viewing audience. Today was a test run and according to reigning NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson any issues with the new qualifying format will be worked out.

“We all understand what NASCAR is trying to do and I'm confident that if there is a problem they'll make some changes,” Johnson said after qualifying fourth. “Today went better than I expected to be honest.”

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