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NASCAR Announces Major Format Changes

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 16 2012

NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton laid out upcoming changes. (File photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

NASCAR officials on Tuesday unveiled a number of competition changes for the 2013 season, the most significant of which is a new qualifying format in the Sprint Cup Series.

That new format marks a return to the past as automatic entry into race fields by the top 35 cars in owner points is being scrapped.

“Times change,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition said during a media teleconference on Tuesday afternoon. “We have to change with those. To go back and make the field the fastest 36 to get in the race, six provisionals and a champ’s spot, we feel that’s good.

The following is a breakdown of next season’s competition update:

– Qualifying format in the Cup Series

The series will move to a 36-6-1 format where the fastest 36 cars will make the race on speed.

The next six highest ranking cars in owners points that have not already earned a starting position through qualifying and who have entered the event by the posted entry deadline will also make the field. The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent eligible past champion driver. If there is no eligible past champion driver, then a seventh car will make the field based upon owners’ points.

Provisional positions in the 36-6-1 format will be lined up by owners’ points, not speed.

Since 2005, the top 35 cars in owners’ points were guaranteed a spot in the field. Now, only a maximum of seven cars will be locked into a given race.

“This is a big win for our fans,” said Pemberton. “They’ll see the  fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying.”

The qualifying order for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events will return to a random draw. However, in the event qualifying is canceled due to rain, the field will be set per the rule book and the starting lineup will continue to be determined by practice speeds.

Additionally, provisional positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be based upon the previous year’s owner points for the first three races, as opposed to the first five races in previous years for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and four races for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

During a teleconference with the media on Tuesday afternoon, Pemberton was asked if he thinks the new qualifying format marks a return to the past. He was asked if he thinks newer fans to the sport will embrace the older-style qualifying.

“I think they will,” Pemberton said. “I think some of our newer fans that haven’t experienced this type of format for qualifying, it will take them a little bit to understand and get used to it.

“Quite frankly, I think our core fan, our hardcore fan, they will identify with this and they will identify with the need for cars to run fast to make the race. I think this is what they’ve probably been lacking or been looking for for a few years now.”

– Testing policy

Beginning next season in the Cup Series, there will be up to four tests per organization available to teams at tracks at which the series competes. Since 2009, teams could only test at tracks that did not hold NASCAR national series events.

“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.”

For the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, starting in 2013, there will be up to two tests per organization at tracks where those series compete. If the organization has an official Sunoco Rookie of Year candidate, then that team will receive one additional test. Additionally, NASCAR will open track activity early for extended practice at two additional events per series, to be determined.

– Maximum field set At 40 cars for NASCAR Nationwide Series

In an effort to strengthen the ownership base up and create a sense of urgency among teams to make races, the maximum starting field for the NASCAR Nationwide Series will be set at 40, as opposed to the 43-car field in previous years.

A maximum NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starting field will remain at 43 cars while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will hold steady at 36.

“We feel to strengthen the ownership base, we really feel it’s best served for us to reduce that field to 40 cars, and therefore it gives us an opportunity to put what we feel is a better quality field of cars in play at those Nationwide events,” Pemberton said.

“Once again, it was not a decision that was made in 30, 60 or 90 days. These are things we talk about in great lengths for a great length of time before we pull the trigger on them. But we think it’s something that will enhance the Nationwide events.”

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 16 2012
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