Knoxville, Tenn --(CBSsports.com) NASCAR's qualifying process will undergo a significant change for the 2014 season, as officials have announced a group qualifying format to replace the single-entry attempts previously used to determine the starting grid for each race.
The change will be in effect for all three national series -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series.
The Coors Light Pole Award Qualifying will now consist of three rounds at tracks measuring 1.25 miles or longer, and two rounds at those tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles.
Under the three-round qualifying format:
• Round 1 -- All entries will have 25 minutes to post a qualifying time, after which the 24 registering the fastest laps will advance to the second round.
Those failing to advance will be sorted based on first-round times in descending order (from fastest to slowest).
• Round 2 -- The 24 fastest from the first round will have 10 minutes to post a second-round qualifying time, with the 12 fastest advancing to a third round.
Those not advancing will earn starting positions 13 through 24 based on time, again in descending order.
• Round 3 -- The final round will be five minutes in length. The fastest times from this session will determine the first (Coors Light Pole Award) through 12th starting positions.
There will be a five-minute break between each round; teams may make adjustments to their entries only during the individual breaks.
They will not be allowed to jack the vehicle or raise the hood, and once the car or truck enters the garage, it will no longer be permitted to return to the track for additional qualifying attempts.
This format will be used at the following tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54 miles); Auto Club Speedway (2 miles); Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (2.46 miles); Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5 miles); Chicagoland Speedway (1.5 miles); Darlington Raceway (1.37 miles); Daytona International Speedway (2.5 miles) (except for the Daytona 500); Gateway Motorsports Park (1.25 miles); Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5 miles); Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5 miles); Kansas Speedway (1.5 miles); Kentucky Speedway (1.5 miles); Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5 miles); Michigan International Speedway (2 miles); Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (2.4 miles); Pocono Raceway (2.5 miles); Road America (4.05 miles); Sonoma Raceway (1.99 miles); Talladega Superspeedway (2.66 miles); Texas Motor Speedway (1.5 miles); Watkins Glen International (2.45 miles)
For the two-round qualifying format, the following changes will be made:
• Round 1 -- All entries will have 30 minutes to post an official qualifying time, with the fastest 12 advancing to the second and final round. Those not advancing will be sorted based on qualifying times.
• Round 2 -- Ten minutes of track time for the fastest 12 remaining cars or trucks, with positions 1 (pole) through 10 determined based on qualifying times.
There will be a 10-minute break between each round.
This format will be used at the following tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway (0.53 miles); Dover International Speedway (1 mile); Iowa Speedway (0.88 miles); Martinsville Speedway (0.526 miles); New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1.06 miles); Phoenix International Raceway (1 mile); Richmond International Raceway (0.75 miles)
"We believe the timing is right for a new Coors Light Pole Award Qualifying format across our three national series," Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president for competition and racing development, said. "This style of group qualifying has all the making of being highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television and online.
"For the drivers and teams, we believe this new qualifying will fuel even greater competition leading into the events."
Before the start of qualifying, cars or trucks will be lined up on pit road based on a random draw and may exit pit road at any time while the green flag is displayed. Each driver may complete as few or as many laps as he or she chooses during the allotted time period for each segment. Pit road speeds will be enforced during each session.
Pemberton said conversations with drivers and crew chiefs helped determine what types of changes teams would be allowed to complete during the breaks in between the sessions.
“And what we surmised from that,” he said, “is you should be able to adjust wedge and track bar, tire pressures and tape strategies.
“The consensus was to not go under the hood and make other extreme adjustments. And the adjustments … can only be made during the breaks.”
If all rounds are not completed due to weather or other circumstances, starting positions will be set based on the last official completed round. If no rounds are completed, starting positions will be determined per the NASCAR rule book.
According to officials, NASCAR's provisional system will remain in place with those positions being awarded following the first round of each qualifying session.
The qualifying format does not apply to the Daytona 500, which features single-car runs and two qualifying races to set the lineup for the season-opening race. Heat races to determine the lineup will still be used at Eldora Speedway as well.
NASCAR went to a one-round qualifying format in 2001. Before that, two rounds of qualifying were used to determine the starting lineup with positions 1-25 locked in during the first round. Teams outside the top 25 could participate in a second round or stand on their first-round time.
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