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New NASCAR qualifying format is closer to race conditions

Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, poses with team owner Tony Stewart holding the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2013 Daytona 500
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, poses with team owner Tony Stewart holding the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2013 Daytona 500Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

NASCAR announced Wednesday in a press release that it will initiate a new group qualifying format for its three national series that “more closely emulates actual on-track competition and underlines the sport’s on-going commitment to innovation.”

Qualifying for most NASCAR events has traditionally consisted of one car running alone, was often influenced by weather conditions and did not always reflect how a car would perform under race conditions.

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 round will be 25 minutes in duration and includes all drivers. The 24 that post the fastest single lap from the first qualifying round will advance to the second round. The remaining vehicles will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.

The second qualifying elimination round will be 10 minutes in duration and the 12 drivers that post the fastest single lap time will advance to the third and final round.

The third and final qualifying round will be five minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order. There will be a five-minute break between each qualifying round.

At 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. The 12 drivers that post the fastest single lap time from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round. There will be a 10-minute break between the two qualifying rounds.

The second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes in duration 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, non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway.

“We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format across our three national series,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president for competition and racing development. “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.”

When more than 230 motorsports journalists gather next week for the 32nd annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, the new format is sure to be a question that the drivers and team owners will be asked often.