The Herald Bulletin

February 11, 2014

Daytona ready to heat up

NASCAR changes qualifying format

The Herald Bulletin

---- — After what seems like a long winter, the racing season begins in earnest this weekend in the warm Florida sunshine.

Action starts at Daytona International Speedway this Saturday with the ARCA stock cars in action followed up by qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

There are several changes this year that will allow fans to catch more of the racing action during prime time.

The Sprint Unlimited, formerly known as the Bud Shoot-out has been moved to Saturday night. The late model and modified action at Daytona is set for Tuesday night.

The two qualifying races to fill the field for the Daytona 500 are now on Thursday night instead of in the afternoon.

NASCAR officials have changed the qualifying format for all the races, except for the Daytona 500.

Stealing a page from Formula One and the IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR is using a form of knock-out qualifying. The new qualifying format will be used in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series.

There are two different formats, one for tracks of 1.25 miles or larger and one for tracks less than 1.25 miles.

For tracks longer than 1.25 miles there will be three rounds of qualifying. The fastest 24 competitors will advance to the second round. The final round for the pole position will involve the remaining 12 drivers. Drivers eliminated in the first two rounds will be placed in the starting line-up based on their times. Provisional starting positions will still be available.

At the other tracks there will be two rounds of qualifying with only the fastest 12 competitors advancing to the final round.

I’m glad that NASCAR is adopting the knock-out round format for qualifying, it should generate more interest from the fans.

I do wonder how NASCAR is going to determine the fastest teams at tracks, such as Talladega where drafting is so important.

Will a driver’s speed be based on them running alone or will it be determined by their speeds obtained in the draft?

With so many multiple car teams and agreements with other teams, an example is Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. Will Jeff Gordon’s speed be determined while he is being pushed around the track by Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

It makes one feel sorry for the single car teams that won’t have any drafting help during the qualifying rounds.

Since the Daytona 500 is not included in the new format fans, teams and the media won’t know the impact of the change until the second race of the year. It will be interesting to watch.

In other racing news: I for one hope that Kurt Busch is afforded the opportunity in May to compete in both the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Sprint Cup competition and the Indianapolis 500.

Busch is in discussions with Chip Ganassi about attempting the double. With the change in start time for the Indy 500, it is a possibility.

Earlier this year I spent some time with Will Power. He expressed the opinion that of all the NASCAR drivers he thought Jimmie Johnson, the six-time Sprint Cup champion, would be able to adjust to the open wheel cars the best. I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.