NASCAR tweaks qualifying rules

In the wake of safety concerns related to engine cooling during the new “knockout” qualifying procedure in NASCAR’s three national series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck), NASCAR is doing some rule-tweaking.

Up until now, teams have not been allowed to use cool-down units on pit road during qualifying. As a result, several teams have resorted to sending their drivers out to make slow laps to get air through the grilles of their cars, while other cars are on the track at full speed making qualifying attempts.

“We don’t have impact data on 170-180 mph differential impacts,” Brian Vickers said during qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last Friday. “If I hit someone with those speed discrepancies, that’s going to be really bad for everyone.”

Vickers also went on to say that the new qualifying format is the “most danerous thing I’ve ever done in racing.”

“It’s not safe,” Ryan Newman said. “It’s not safe.”

After a conference call with crew chiefs on Tuesday, NASCAR decided to allow each team to use one cool-down unit during qualifying. It may be connected through one of the hood flaps. As a result, two crew members from each team will now be allowed to go over the wall to perform the hook-up and tend to their driver. Meanwhile, the hood must remain closed and generators will still be prohibited.

“The qualifying is new to all of us, and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all apects,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton said. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective, starting with our two national series events at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved in the sport. Moving forward, we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”

The Sprint Cup Series is scheduled to qualify at Bristol at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, with the race scheduled for 1 p.m. ET Sunday. Qualifying for the Nationwide Series will be at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, with the race to follow at 2 p.m. ET the same day.

– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR

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Tags: NASCAR Qualifying

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