NASCAR Returns To Single-Car Qualifying Format At Oval Tracks

Future NASCAR events held at oval tracks will return to a single-lap qualifying format.

In a statement, the championship announced that at oval tracks larger than 1.25 miles, teams will determine the starting lineup with a single timed qualifying lap. Tracks which are shorter than 1.25 miles will have their grids set on the basis of the best of two timed single-car laps. The changes will be made to all three national series.

This new qualifying format ends the current group qualifying that was first introduced prior to the 2014 season, which will still be used in the three road-course events on the calendar.

NASCAR officials say they decided to revert back to single-car qualifying after an increasing number of teams were using “gamesmanship” to achieve the best results.

This year’s rules package places a particular emphasis on aerodynamic draft and, as a result, many teams often only put their cars out to qualify when they were guaranteed to get a slipstream or aerodynamic pull behind another vehicle.

NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell was particularly annoyed by what happened during qualifying at the Auto Club Raceway round in March. At this event, none of the top qualifiers logged a final-round speed, because no one wanted to be the first out onto the track.

“It was a unified decision between broadcasters, teams and NASCAR,” senior vice president of NASCAR competition Scott Miller said. “One of the other things to make a compelling program out of it is we’ve seen the use of the ghost car (on television). That’s going to be a big element in presenting a quality show. I think fans are going to be able to see which drivers drive in deep, which drivers roll the middle faster and get off the corners faster and really give the talent in the booth something to talk about.”

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