In an effort to make racing more entertaining for fans (both live and on television), NASCAR has overhauled the way cars will qualify for races in 2014. With the exception of the Daytona 500, NASCAR races have previously used single-car qualifying to set the race-day field, but starting this year, drivers in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series will qualify in large groups in knockout rounds similar to how Formula One, United SportsCar and non-oval IndyCar races operate.
Rather than cars going out one at a time, there will be two new systems – one for tracks longer than 1.25 miles and another for tracks shorter than that distance – that has cars qualifying in packs. For longer tracks, qualifying will be split up into three sessions: the first will be 25 minutes with all vehicles on the track, the fastest from the first round will move on to the 10-minute second round and then the fastest 12 cars from this session will move on to the final round. On shorter tracks, there will be just two qualifying rounds: a 30-minute session with all vehicles and a second 10-minute round for the fastest 12 cars.
If weather prevents all the rounds from taking place, then the field will be set using times of the last completed session, but if no qualifying rounds occur for that race, then the starting positions "will be determined per the NASCAR rule book" using the current points standing. In between each round will be a break (five minutes for longer tracks and 10 minutes for short tracks) where teams will be allowed to perform minor adjustments and aren't permitted to make any changes under the hood.
The Daytona 500 will continue to use its twin 200-mile races as the qualifying sessions, so the first time we'll see this new system on March 2 at Phoenix International Raceway. Let us know in the Comments if you think this will help make NASCAR more fun to watch, and scroll down for a video explaining the new qualifying sessions.