That phrase you heard so often the last two weeks – “the pack is back” – can be recycled, and used again Friday at around 4:30 p.m. local time at Phoenix International Speedway.
At about that time, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will roll their cars to the grid, ready for the debut of the new group qualifying format to be used at each premier series race except last week’s Daytona 500.
A primer on the new rules: There will be two rounds of qualifying at Phoenix, a one-mile track. The first round will last 30 minutes. The fastest 12 will then move to a second and final round lasting 10 minutes, with the fastest car in the final round winning the Coors Light Pole.
Actually – if the weather cooperates – this weekend could see the new format in play for the first time in its entirety for the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as well. Truck qualifying was completely washed out at Daytona, and rain caused Nationwide Series qualifying to be limited to one round.
At tracks measuring 1.25 miles or longer, there will be three rounds of qualifying, with the field decreasing to 24 cars in the second round and 12 cars in the final round. The time breakdown in each: 25 minutes for the first; 10 for the second; and five for the third.