So long single-car qualifying. In 2014, NASCAR is ramping up the prerace excitement level with a new knockout Coors Light Pole Award qualifying format for its three national series – a move designed to make qualifying more compelling and more closely like actual on-track competition.
“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.”
The new qualifying format will not apply to the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race of the season – the February 23 Daytona 500 – which features single-car runs and two qualifying races to set the lineup for The Great American Race. Heat races to determine the lineup for the July 23 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Midsummer Classic race at Eldora Speedway will still be used as well.
At racetracks less than 1.25 miles, the Coors Light Pole Award new qualifying procedure will be as follows:
The first qualifying session will be 30 minutes long and include all cars entered in the race. The 12 cars that post the fastest single-lap time in this session will advance to the second and final round. The remaining cars will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.
There will be a 10-minute break between the two qualifying rounds. The second and final qualifying round will last 10 minutes, with the fastest single lap time posted by each car setting the top 12 spots on the grid. At racetracks longer than 1.25 miles, there will be three Coors Light Pole Award qualifying rounds.
Before the start of qualifying, cars or trucks will be lined up on pit road based on a random draw and may exit pit road at any time while the green flag is displayed. Each driver may complete as few or as many laps as he or she chooses during the allotted time period for each segment. Pit road speeds will be enforced during each session.
Drivers will be allotted just a single set of tires during qualifying, which means fans will see a lot of different strategies.
“For the drivers and teams, we believe this new qualifying will fuel even greater competition leading into the events,” said Pemberton. “Additionally, it provides our tracks, broadcasters and other key partners with a greater opportunity to develop more entertaining content for our race weekends.”
NASCAR previewed the concept of group qualifying with its national series teams late last fall and expects the new format will be a well-received improvement by its fans, competitors, tracks, sponsors, and media partners.