NASCAR Drops Surprise Overhaul to the Cup Series Qualifying Procedure; Racing Community Demands Single Car Qualifying

Published 01/23/2024, 11:12 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Weeks after the organization dropped its massive rule book changes for its short tracks and road courses, the stock car racing giant NASCAR is back at it again, leveling the playing field. But this time it is making a major alteration to its qualifying procedure. The sanctioning body made vital changes to short-track racing with its Cup Series cars running a simplified diffuser at a majority of tracks measuring one mile or shorter, as well as all road courses last year, to make its product more attractive and get precedence back on competitiveness.

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Well, with just barely a week until the season opener at the L.A. Coliseum, NASCAR has made the headlines yet again with another amendment procedure. It has altered the qualifying procedures for the Cup Series events ahead of the 2024 season in an attempt to eliminate advantages for drivers and teams in a certain group based on track conditions. Curious to know what changes are there and how they will level the playing field? Let us get you up to speed on this one.

NASCAR files out its starting lineup and qualifying procedures

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Following the community’s demand for a better short-track racing package, the organization heeded its drivers’ demands, but instead of bumping up the power figures like they wanted, it made significant changes to the aerodynamics of the Cup Series cars. Racecars will now have modified splitter stuffers with no engine panel strakes, a 3-inch spoiler, a simplified diffuser, and adjoining strakes.

Likewise, NASCAR has made major changes to its qualifying procedures, taking away any unintended advantage to drivers and teams, thus equalizing the stakes considerably. Taking feedback from within the industry, the organization briefed about the changes in Concord, NC. The change will affect all races except those on superspeedways since group qualifying isn’t used at those tracks.

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While the original premise of the format will remain unchanged, with all vehicles entering the race split into two groups based on the performance metric where the fastest five drivers from each of the two groups will advance to the final round of qualifying, the new reform will have drivers who are in Group A who don’t advance to the final round of qualifying starting on the outside row. Whereas the drivers from Group B will make up the inside row.

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Unlike its short-track rule change that received mixed responses, the recent amendment seems to sit well with the community because track conditions can vary throughout a qualifying session. The goal is to level the playing field for drivers and teams, ensuring a more competitive field that in turn benefits the fans.

NASCAR’s performance metrics and other changes explained

While the adjustment will only be in effect for qualifying, once the race is underway, drivers get the option to choose their lane for a restart. Other major changes include light-up boards inside pit boxes and a new Next-Gen towing policy that will be exclusively tested to see its feasibility.

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Also, the organization has confirmed that its group qualifying assignment will not change other than the above-mentioned change, with the already existing performance metrics still in play: 5% fastest lap time, 25% of the driver’s finishing position, 25% of the owner’s finishing position, and 35% of the owner’s points position.

USA Today via Reuters

Cup Series teams will now be able to showcase their sponsors on LED sign boards inside their pit boxes starting this year, prompting more sponsorships and giving sponsors more opportunities to represent their brand at the sport’s highest level. Another major addition is the new tow-dolly system. If a driver has an issue in qualifying, suffering four flat tires to the point where they cannot drive back to pit road, a tow dolly system will be used.

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While the new dolly system will be used exclusively in qualifying, it won’t be implemented in races at least for now as the organization looks to file out the rough edges to make it more feasible in the future.

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Written by:

Kishore R

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Picture this: a fast & well set-up car roaring its V8 glory, zipping through the country roads. I?m the sort of person who?ll be instantly drawn to something like that. While major racing promotions have stepped closer to the EV revolution, NASCAR still has their V8s singing its tune, which got me into the world of Stock Car Racing.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta

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