Even NASCAR semi-admitted that its qualifying format for the Daytona 500 this year was a mess, saying that the sanctioning body was "open to discussions" on how to improve it. Personally, I think Clint Bowyer said it best. Anyway, they just changed their superspeedway qualifying format, hopefully for the better.
Pack qualifying for Daytona and Talladega and is out, done, gonezo, adios. (And good riddance.) The biggest issue with qualifying in packs was that it was a battle for the back. The goal is to set a fast lap, and that's extremely difficult when drafting behind the rest of the pack is where the speeds are the highest. You're constantly fighting to stay behind everyone else, and that's dumb.
Instead, cars will now be sent out one at a time, spaced out at certain intervals, to set a fast lap. There will be two rounds, with cars taking one lap per round of qualifying. The cars that post the top 12 speeds in the first round advance to the second round. Positions from 13 onwards are set in the first round.
Qualifying order is a random draw for the first round, but determined by speed (from slowest to fastest) for the second round. Cars go into impound after each round, but teams are allowed to adjust tape and use a cool-down unit in the ten minute break between rounds if they're advancing to the next one.
One-car-at-a-time qualifying isn't the most interesting to watch, but it's not a pointless crashfest that rewards moving to the back like pack qualifying turned into, either.
This is a good move. Not a sexy move. Not an exciting move. Not a thrilling move. It's just a good move, for safety and sanity.
All three of NASCAR's major series (including the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series) will use this qualifying format at Talladega this year.
And that's a good move. Fans of crashes will bemoan the lack of excitement. Rational people who know that crashes suck, are expensive, and put drivers in unnecessary danger, won't. It's qualifying, for crap's sake. Leave the rubbin' for the racin'.
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