NASCAR shakes up qualifying rules
Ryan Blaney (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
On Tuesday, NASCAR announced a couple of rules changes related to qualifying for races, one that changes the procedure for setting starting grids for races for which qualifying is cancelled and another that affects potential non-chartered teams in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Beginning with Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, if qualifying is cancelled for any reason, the starting grid will be set by current car owner points. Starting grids set after the cancellation of qualifying used to be set by owner points, but the rule was changed a few years ago, calling for the grid to be set by practice speeds. Beginning next season, practice speeds will be used to determined which open, or non-chartered, cars will get into the second and third races of the season, if qualifying is cancelled for one or both of those races. After the third race, NASCAR will return to using current owner points.
The change only applies to the Sprint Cup Series. According to the announcement from NASCAR, “qualifying procedures remain unchanged for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.”
The other rule change from Tuesday will guarantee starting spots for non-chartered teams in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Any un-chartered team that makes the Chase will have provisional starting spots for all 10 Chase races.
“These changes provide a more even competition field for both Charter and Open teams, rewarding strong performances over the course of a season,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy said. “Earning a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is extremely difficult and requires consistent elite performance. Those teams should be guaranteed an opportunity to race for the title, and this ensures that will be the case.”
Ryan Blaney, driver of the non-chartered No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team, is the driver among those with “open” teams with the best shot at making the Chase. Heading into Saturday’s race at Daytona, Blaney is 17th in the points standings, three points outside the top-16. He’s also been the one of the group to regularly come closest to victory lane with six top-10 finishes in the first 16 races of the season.