By AMANDA VINCENT
Both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity series head to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway this race weekend for the second restrictor plate races on the schedules for each series. Greeting each series at Talladega will be a new qualifying format. The following format will also apply to racing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in July. If the following format works out, NASCAR expects to utilize it for the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series race weekend at Talladega in October.
“I applaud NASCAR for taking the steps to improve the format for superspeedway qualifying,” Jeremy Bullins, crew chief of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, driven by Ryan Blaney in the Sprint Cup Series. “We all know that at Daytona and Talladega, the speed of our cars is paramount. Having the opportunity to show that off again is exciting. Hopefully our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion is up to the task and we’re looking forward to the new format.”
The qualifying sessions for each series will be divided into two rounds. During the rounds, cars will be released one at a time at predetermined timed intervals. It has been assumed recently that the intervals will result in two cars at a time being on the race track for qualifying runs. Each car in each round will make one timed lap.
The 12 fastest cars from the first round will advance to the second, while the others will set the 13th-43rd (or 40th in the Xfinity Series) starting spots for their respective series’ race. The fast 12 will make a second-round lap, with second-round lap times determining the top-12 starting spots.
There will be a 10-minute break between the two rounds in each series’ qualifying session. Teams advancing to the second round will be allowed to adjust tape and use cool-down units on their cars.
NASCAR has tweeked the qualifying format at restrictor plate tracks since the Cup/Truck race weekend at Talladega last fall, primarily breaking cars/trucks into two groups in early rounds of qualifying ans shortening the length of time of each round. In the Sprint Cup Series last fall, several Sprint Cup cars failed to post lap times in the first round In Daytona 500 qualifying earlier this year, NASCAR was unhappy with down time in the early rounds as drivers waited each other out.