NASCAR tweaks group qualifying process
February 13, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR on Thursday morning confirmed a pair of tweaks to its new group qualifying procedure, placing road courses under the format used for shorter tracks, and allowing adjustments to be made during sessions at all but two facilities.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, made the announcement Thursday morning at Media Day, which kicked off Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Series officials hinted last week that such changes were coming in a briefing with media members at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
NASCAR will move to group qualifying this season for all three of its national series, with the exception of the Daytona 500, the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora and non-points events. Tracks of 1.25 miles or longer will utilize a three-step process consisting of an opening 25-minute segment for all cars, a 10-minute segment for the fastest 24 vehicles, and a final five-minute segment for the fastest 12 drivers.
Road courses had originally fallen under that format, but will now use the procedure reserved for tracks of less than 1.25 miles -- which includes a 30-minute first round, a 10-minute second round comprised of the fastest 12 cars, and a 10-minute break in between. The tweak stems from feedback from race teams and the length of laps on circuits like Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
"Through feedback they felt like the second or last round needed to be longer to get multiple laps in on the track," Pemberton said. "This should maximize their track time."
In addition, adjustments to vehicles will now be allowed during every round of national series qualifying at all tracks -- except Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway -- while vehicles are on track, as well as during breaks between the rounds. When vehicles are on track, one helmeted crew member will be allowed over the wall to make adjustments. During the breaks between rounds, three crewmen will be allowed over the wall.
NASCAR had originally ruled that teams could make only minor adjustments -- such as tape, tire pressure and wedge -- to cars during the breaks in between qualifying sessions. But teams requested to be able to make similar tweaks to their vehicles during the sessions, in an effort to more immediately improve their qualifying efforts.
"When we went back and looked back at the minutes (of meetings with teams), that seemed to be the most common question," Pemberton said. "Really, because of the length of the first round, they felt like it was a time for them to make adjustments. … That was probably unanimous for all of our three national series."
The Nationwide and Camping World Truck series will use the group qualifying format for the first time next week, during preparations for their respective season openers at Daytona. The Sprint Cup Series will continue to use the traditional single-car format for qualifying for the Daytona 500, and then move to group qualifying for the season's second race, at Phoenix International Raceway.