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CUP: Road-Course Qualifying Goes Group

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NASCAR has made major changes in qualifying procedures for Sprint Cup races at the schedule’s two road courses – Sonoma Raceway in California and Watkins Glen International in New York.

Beginning with the June race weekend at Sonoma, cars will qualify in groups instead of the traditional single-car qualifying runs at oval tracks. The format, already in use in the Nationwide Series, is a time-saver and typically makes qualifying sessions more interesting.

“The change will add an exciting element to road-course qualifying,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “Fans will be treated to new strategy and increased competition with several cars on track at once.”

According to NASCAR’s Monday announcement, the new format will work like this:

• Cars attempting to qualify will be divided into groups. The number of groups, and amount of cars in each, will depend on the number of cars that practice for the event.

• Group assignments will be based on final practice times.

• Each qualifying group will be on-track for a set period of time, determined by the series director.

• A car’s best lap time during the group session will be the qualifying lap time of record.

• A group’s time begins when the first car receives the green flag at the start/finish line.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.