Last Friday at the Phoenix International Raceway, the NASCAR world got to see the brand new qualifying system put in place. The old procedures was dual, boring, and was so un-television friendly, and also lacked so much action for those sitting in the grandstands at the track.
The old procedures was one car allowed on-track at one time for up to two laps. One advantage to the system was every driver was on equal game. The biggest disadvantage was the lack of action. Yeah, sometimes there would be action, like when it came to the track record stuff and following at home with television graphics, but at the track it would be dual without the lap trackers.
The new format brings a lot of flair to the mix with excitement both at the track, and watching on television. At tracks less than 1.25 mile in length, all cars will run on track for 30 minutes total. For round two, the fastest twelve drivers from the first session will have a shootout for the pole. At tracks 1.25 miles and bigger, all cars will make runs on the track for 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes are up, NASCAR will reset the board and run those fastest cars once again for ten minutes. Once again, officials will reset the board and run a five minute timed session with the fastest twelve cars from the second session. The driver who posts the fastest time in this third session will earn the pole. There are much more disadvantages in this for the drivers but that’s what makes it exciting, right? This puts more pressure on the driver, which in turn, makes it more fun for the fans to watch!
Many race fans seemed to enjoy the new style of qualifying also. With the risk vs. reward format it brings much drama, which is what the fans want. FOX Sports seen a viewing increase of 14% over the 2013 season. It also ranked the No. 2 most watched program on the channel last week. So with that said, it is safe to say that this particular format will stay around for a very long time.
While FOX seen an increase of viewers under this new format, it might just have a decrease soon. During qualifying on Friday afternoon, many fans took to twitter to complain about the 10-15 minute delay between live action and the television feed. With this new format, it allows about a one hour time slot and then some to allow time for NASCAR to clean up from a wreck or two, and making it more television friendly, which was one of NASCAR’s goals. In my honest opinion, these huge delays are stupid under this new format. Yes, I know, the single car qualifying would start out live and get behind the further it ran. That’s not my point. My point is this was designed to fit the television window, yet FOX Sports still wants to delay it. Another thing that many was very upset with was the fact that under the logo in right hand corner it said live. They was not even close to live and FOX needs to remove that. When SPEED was still a thing, at least in the United States, it would show an event is live and when they started delaying it as the more they showed commercials, they would take the “live” indicator all of the television screen.
But besides the negative stuff about this, it is really a good format for NASCAR. It’ll only help bring much more excitement and attendance to qualifying at the tracks. NASCAR and its drivers are happy about this new system, except maybe for the team owners, but if it makes the fans happy, it should stay in place for a very long time.