NASCAR’s sure going to look different next year, and I’m not just talking about the cars. Yes, the Sprint Cup Series will get a facelift come Daytona in February, but the changes in store for 2013 are more than skin deep. There are so many changes coming up that NASCAR found it necessary to have Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton give a competition update on Wednesday.
Prior to the update, NASCAR sent out a release outlining most of the changes. Word had already gotten out about some of them, including new qualifying and testing rules and procedures.
As far as qualifying and testing go, NASCAR looks to be going retro, in a matter of speaking, returning things to the way fans and race teams prefer them.
It seems like a majority of fans have complained in recent years about too many cars/drivers have starting grid spots guaranteed, taking away from the importance of the qualifying process. Right now, most of drivers — 35 to be specific — who show up at the race track on a given weekend already know they’re in that weekend’s race.
To answer those complaints, NASCAR has gone back to the old way of doing things. Beginning next year, the 36 fastest cars in qualifying will earn starting spots. The race field, at least for the Sprint Cup Series (the Nationwide exception to come later), will still be made up of 43 cars, with the last seven starting spots being claimed by the most recent past champion not already in on speed and the top-six in points among those not among the fastest 36.
As I mentioned above, testing is also changing — as in it’s going to exist outside of tire tests. Okay, teams have been testing outside the occassional tire test, but that’s been at tracks no NASCAR national series tours at. NASCAR plans to go back to letting teams test a limited number of times at tracks on the schedule. Sprint Cup teams will get four tests per year at Sprint Cup tracks of their choice, and Nationwide Series teams get two tests. In the Nationwide Series, teams with a rookie driver get a third test.
“We feel like it’s time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back to facilities that host our events,” said Pemberton. “We made the decision at the end of 2008 to restrict testing, primarily for economic reasons. Now we believe it will be best for the garage and for the tracks to have some testing return in 2013.”
Organizations with multiple teams will get four tests total, not four tests per team. But those organizations will be allowed to send multiple teams to a single track on a single day and count it as one test.
“When you talk to the big teams, there is a far different opinion than that of the smaller teams,” five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson said, according to a report from Morris News Service. “So I think it’s a decent compromise. . . . It’s something different for us to play with.”
Speaking of the Nationwide Series, there’s at least one more change in store — the size of race fields. The Nationwide Series has considered 43 cars a full field for years, much like its Sprint Cup big brother, but that all changes next year.
The Sprint Cup Series will stick to 43, but in the Nationwide Series, the full race field number will drop to 40. The Camping World Truck Series will stick with its current 36.
Usually, a cheat sheet is needed to start a new season because of all the driver, team and sponsor changes. It’s looking like there’s going to be a lot more to get used to this time around.
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– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR