Veteran sports writer Jim Utter covers NASCAR for The Charlotte Observer and its racing site, ThatsRacin.com. In this space, Jim writes about all things NASCAR and other forms of racing which may also be relevant ... or not.
NASCAR has made some modifications to its group qualifying procedures and will utilize it for qualifying this week for the Xfinity and Truck series race at Daytona International Speedway. The changes come after several drivers complained about the process used in Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session. The changes, however, do not alter the format but help prevent the gamesmanship by teams that was causing a bottleneck on pit road during each round.
As part of the changes, the fields will be broken into four groups in Round 1 by random draw. Each round will last just two minutes and 30 seconds (they were five minutes), barely long enough for teams to leave pit road and complete a qualifying attempt.
Before the start, teams must start nose-first in their pit stall and will line up single-file on pit road for the start of the session. Once a car moves, it must go and complete its qualifying attempt or it will have its time disallowed. In Round 2, there will be two groups of 12, split by odd and even ranked cars and lined up fastest to slowest. In Round 3, the top 12 cars will compete for the pole in one, 2 1/2 minute session.
"We continue to work in collaboration with the industry to implement the most exciting and competitive qualifying format, especially as it relates to superspeedways," said NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell. "We will continue to review the qualifying format for future superspeedway events."