NASCAR announced Wednesday a well-received change in its national series qualifying procedure beginning with this week’s triple-header at Dover International Speedway.
Going forward, qualifying will feature single-car runs as opposed to the group procedure used by NASCAR for the past five seasons and up to this point in 2019. The modification was well-received by teams and NASCAR is hopeful a return to the tried-and-true format used for decades will improve the show both competitively and for the fan’s sake.
The qualifying format now will be single-car, single-round qualifying for the remainder of the season and used in all three NASCAR national series, including the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series, according to NASCAR.
The format will be used at all tracks except for road courses. At oval tracks measuring 1.25-miles or less, qualifying will consist of two timed laps. At oval tracks more than 1.25-miles in length, qualifying will consist of one timed lap. The group qualifying format will remain in place at road courses.
The qualifying order will be determined by the previous race’s starting lineup. The top-20 starters from the previous race will draw to take their qualifying lap in positions 21-40 (second half of qualifying). The remainder of the cars will draw to qualify in positions 1-20.
“With all the teams waiting until the last minute, being allotted a block of time and only taking advantage of the last two or three minutes of it, became problematic from a content standpoint from the broadcaster and radio perspective and that," NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said Wednesday afternoon shortly after NASCAR's announcement.
“It was very hard to figure out who was doing what when it was only like a two-minute session. A lot of times some of the polesitters weren’t covered very well because they were kind of surprise polesitters or whatnot. That and just restoring general order."
Miller said the sanctioning body brainstormed on ideas and formats to solve issues arising from the group qualifying model. He acknowledged that no matter the process, teams would understandably approach qualifying in a manner that benefitted them most. The new single-car qualifying lessens the need for over-thinking.
“We tried a few different iterations," Miller said. “We talked about a lot of differing things that we might do. But the fact remained that the teams are always going to do what benefits them the most.
“Unfortunately that was waiting, drafting, trying to position themselves, which they weren’t using the time block and it wasn’t a very compelling show," Miller said. “We owe it to our fans to provide something that’s worth watching. We felt that it started to become less than that."
Miller also reminded that this single-car format is a nod to NASCAR’s heritage, while at the same time being an understandable way for fans to watch qualifying and a fair way to set the field.
“One of the things that to me is getting back a little bit to our roots with the single-car qualifying is everybody can understand it," Miller said. “If you looked up on the screen and the sound was off, just about any kind of hardcore fan to a casual fan can understand what’s going on there. What we had before, not so much.
“We felt like consistency and that visual week after week, series after series, kind of gets us back to a point where everybody kind of understands what we’re doing.”