Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NASCAR Amends Restrictor Plate Qualifying Format

Photo Credit: 304945 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Earlier this year at the Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR's Speedweeks opened on a controversial note. For the 2015 Daytona 500, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series adopted a multi-car group qualifying style that had debuted last season for most races. Designed to provide a more dramatic and faster-moving method departing from the single-car qualifying fashion used for decades, the new method for deciding the pole position as well as the positions for the Budweiser Duel 150 races definitely caused buzz. Unfortunately, much of the reaction after the qualifying concluded was not favourable.

A Daytona 500 pole qualifying consisting of two groups of cars, it was a bizarre spectacle to watch as some vehicles drove through the infield grass to immediately to placed with a drifting partner and competitors waiting for the last possible moment to set a fast lap. This latter point meant the first 3 minutes of each of the three segments featured an empty 2.5-mile track. While Jeff Gordon capturing the pole in what was his final Daytona 500 served as a pleasant surprise, the group qualifying format was widely criticized. Caught in a crash in a multi-car session, driver of the #15 Toyota Clint Bowyer was the most vocal opponent to way qualifying unfolded. Describing the scenario as "idiotic" and referring to the qualifying as "some cute show", Bowyer expressed frustrations over NASCAR creating a more desperate manner to time into the Daytona 500.

On Monday, NASCAR announced there will be some adjustments to the way group qualifying will be conducted at Daytona International Speedway as well as Talladega Superspeedway. The structure of the qualifying groups will remain with two first round session and the top-12 fastest advancing to a final round. The major change comes in the manner that it will be NASCAR and not the teams determining when a car is sent out on the race track. With an order predetermined through a random draw, competitors will be released at a predetermined time where they are allowed to set one timed lap. The modifications will prevent much of the jockeying on pit road that appeared at February's Daytona outing and eliminates the last-minute rush that led to chaos.

The tweaked group qualifying will debut at Talladega Superspeedway for the NASCAR Xfinity Series' Winn Dixie 300 and the Sprint Cup Series' GEICO 500 race weekend running from May 1st through to the 3rd.

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