Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - NASCAR announced a radical change to its qualifying format for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series on Wednesday, making it similar to knockout qualifying used for Formula One and IndyCar Series road/street course races.
At NASCAR racetracks measuring 1.25 miles or longer in length, qualifying will consist of three rounds. Tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles will feature just two segments.
NASCAR noted its revised qualifying format will not be used for the Daytona 500 (Feb. 23) and the Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway (July 23), which is the only national touring series event contested on a dirt track. It also won't be used for the Sprint Cup non-point races -- the Feb. 15 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway and the May 17 NASCAR Sprint All- Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"We're looking forward to the new qualifying format for all three of our national series this year," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said during a teleconference. "The new format is something that we've been looking at for quite some time. The goal is providing a more fan- friendly and exciting qualifying session for each race event across the board, with the exception of the Daytona 500 and Eldora, which are unique in their own right.
"NASCAR fans will be treated to highly competitive elimination-based qualifying segments that will be more engaging to the fans in the stands and those watching on television or online."
For those races on tracks 1.25 miles or greater, the first qualifying elimination round will be 25 minutes in duration and includes all cars/trucks. The 24 entries that post the fastest single lap from the opening segment will advance to the second round. The remaining cars/trucks will be sorted from their times in descending order posted during the first segment.
The 12 cars/trucks that recorded the quickest single lap during the second round, which is 10 minutes in length, will then advance to the third and final segment, which lasts five minutes. Positions 13 through 24 will be based on lap times during the second round.
Positions 1 through 12 will be determined during the final round, with the driver posting the fastest lap winning the pole position.
There will be a five-minute break between each of the three qualifying rounds.
For those tracks shorter than 1.25 miles, the opening segment in qualifying will be 30 minutes in duration and includes all entries. The 12 cars/trucks that recorded the fastest single lap time will advance to the second segment. The remaining field will be determined by lap times in descending order during the first round. Positions 1 through 12 will then be decided in the final segment, which is 10 minutes in length.
"We believe the timing is right for this new style of qualifying, and for our drivers and teams, we believe that it will create even better competition leading into the event," Pemberton said.
Response from drivers on the format change for qualifying has been positive.
Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, posted on his Twitter account, "New qualifying rules for @NASCAR 2014 season should really mix it up. I expect a lot more actions for fans and even more games from teams."
"Looks like the @NASCAR knockout qual announcement today is already bringing excitement to 2014 season. I know I'm excited about it!" Jeff Gordon, a four- time Cup champion, tweeted.
NASCAR's new format is scheduled to be used for the first time on Feb. 21 when the Nationwide and Truck Series have qualifying for their season-openers at Daytona. Sprint Cup will utilize the format beginning with the March 2 race at Phoenix International Raceway.