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Monster Energy Series teams, including the No. 88 Chevrolet crew for driver Alex Bowman, awaits a qualifying run at Watkins Glen International.
Robert Laberge | Getty Images

Qualifying tweaks among several NASCAR competition updates

NASCAR officials revealed Monday a more compact schedule for national series qualifying procedures at the majority of its tracks in 2019.

At both short tracks and intermediate speedways, the first of three rounds will be shortened from 15 minutes to 10. The other rounds will remain 10 minutes for Round 2 and five minutes for the final round.

At every national-series track next season, the down-time intervals between rounds will be trimmed from seven minutes to five.

“Really as we looked at what was going on, it was obvious that we didn’t need that extra five minutes,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “Tightening that first round up a bit and tightening up the time between the rounds, we think that was somewhat with TV partners and just making a tighter, more interesting show out of it for our fans.”

Qualifying at superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) will remain two untimed rounds of single-lap qualifying. Road-course qualifying will continue to be two rounds — 25 minutes followed by a 10-minute final round.

RELATED: Gen-7 target date set

Participation guidelines announced

The national series driver participation guidelines remain mostly unchanged from 2018. Drivers with more than five years of full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series experience are eligible for a maximum of seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts and five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts.

Drivers who elect to accumulate Monster Energy Series points are not eligible to compete in any Dash 4 Cash or Triple Truck Challenge races, or the final eight races in either the Xfinity Series or the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In addition, drivers who earn points in the Xfinity Series are ineligible to compete in Triple Truck Challenge races and the championship race for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

MORE: Triple Truck Challenge announced

Kennedy’s role grows

Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., will expand his leadership in the family business in 2019, becoming the managing director of racing operations and international development.

Kennedy, 27, was named managing director of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series one year ago. In his new capacity, he will work alongside Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, and others in the sport’s front office.

O’Donnell said Kennedy will take ownership of new projects and expand his reach globally to include NASCAR’s racing series in Canada, Mexico and Europe.

“I’m still going to stay actively involved in the Truck Series as well, but taking more of a broader approach this year and focusing a little more on competition,” Kennedy said. “We have so many different projects and things that we’re working on, not only in 2019 but for beyond as well. The next few years are going to be very exciting.”

Getting specific

NASCAR also announced Monday that its three national tours will have dedicated, series-specific officials conducting inspections in 2019.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s Vice President of Officiating and Technical Inspection, said there will be 12 officials devoted to the Monster Energy Series, 10 for the Xfinity Series and eight for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

“We felt like when we sat down and we looked at this and we put this model together that the efficiencies are going to come with the fact that those highly skilled inspectors are going to be in those individual garages and living in those garages,” Sawyer said. “The scrutineering of the vehicles, whether it be trucks or cars, those are the things our inspectors will be living with all weekend. That’s not to say they won’t work in other garages, but 95 percent of the time, they’ll be right there in that garage and working with the teams and trying to correct any issues they may have.

“We feel like this model sets us up for those efficiencies as well as more success across the board as far as the inspection process and making sure ultimately that our fans are seeing a great race with a level playing field.”