NASCAR announced Monday that it has changed the qualifying procedure for the May Talladega race and the July race at Daytona again. The change comes less than a year after the procedure was changed resulting in what drivers said was frustrating qualifying session at the fall Talladega race. Cars will now have only one timed lap instead of having their fastest lap.
2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick called the Talladega qualifying session “the stupidest thing he’d ever seen.” And Jeff Gordon who, like Denny Hamlin, Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson, needed an owner’s provisional to make the field said, “It’s a mess out there.”
NASCAR said that qualifying for May’s Talladega Superspeedway races, as well as the July events at Daytona International Speedway, will consist of the following:
· Two rounds of qualifying, with the top-12 posted lap speeds advancing to the second round
· Race vehicles taking one, timed lap in each round of qualifying
· Each race vehicle will be released in a predetermined timed interval as determined by NASCAR, with the sanctioning body reserving the right to have more than one vehicle engaging in qualifying runs at the same time
· Qualifying order for the first round will be determined by a random draw; final round qualifying order is determined by slowest to fastest speeds from the first round
· A 10-minute break will occur between the first qualifying round and the final round
· Upon completion of the first qualifying round, the field will be set with positions 13 and beyond determined from first round qualifying speed
· The 12 fastest vehicles from the first round will have their speeds reset for the final round with starting positions 1-12 determined by the fastest laps in the final round
· NASCAR will impound race vehicles following each qualifying lap; vehicles advancing to the final round will be allowed to adjust tape and utilize a cool-down unit during the 10-minute break only
The changes mean that there will only be two rounds instead of three and instead of allowing drives determine when they will leave pit road, NASCAR will release them. This should eliminate the practice of drivers waiting until the final moments of a session then trying to charge out to make a lap before time expires. At the superspeedways no driver wanted to be the first out. This resulted in a last moment scramble to get a lap in within the short five minute window. Monday’s announcement means there will be no timed sessions.
All entries will now take part in the first session. Only the 12 fastest will advance to the final round. In addition there will only be three laps for each driver: a warm up, a timed lap then a cool down lap before returning to pit road.
The format from last year was tried at Daytona in February. Accidents marred the sessions and drew more criticism from drivers. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, vowed the sanctioning body would “continue to review the qualifying format for future superspeedway events.” NASCAR said Monday that qualifying procedures for the 2016 Daytona 500 will be announced at a later date.