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NASCAR moves to knockout qualifying format

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm •  Published: January 22, 2014
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR overhauled its qualifying process Wednesday, switching to a knockout format similar to Formula One and IndyCar.

Drivers and track owners applauded the change, saying it will bring excitement to what had been a somewhat monotonous and often meaningless event.

"I'm all for anything that makes it fun not only for the fans but the drivers and teams, too," Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer said. "This is really going shake things up on Fridays - in a good way."

The new format will not be used for the Daytona 500, non-points events in the Sprint Cup Series and the Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

NASCAR will use three rounds of qualifying at tracks 1¼ miles in length or larger. The entire field will have 25 minutes to post their fastest single lap and the top 24 advance to the second round.

The second segment will last 10 minutes, and the fastest 12 will advance to a final, five-minute round. At tracks smaller than 1¼ miles, qualifying will be in two segments. The first will be 30 minutes, with the top 12 advancing to a 10-minute final session.

"New qualifying rules for @NASCAR 2014 season should really mix it up," 2012 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski posted on his Twitter page. "I expect a lot more actions for fans and even more games from teams."

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition and racing development, said the sanctioning body modified qualifying rules to make the event "more engaging to the fans in the stands and those watching on TV and online."

It's the first of several changes expected this season.

NASCAR has been working feverishly behind the scenes to improve its on-track product, particularly at 1½-mile tracks, and at least some changes are expected to the points system.

NASCAR is reportedly considering a 16-driver championship field that would be whittled down to create a winner-take-all season finale. Chairman Brian France has repeatedly said he wants to place greater emphasis on winning, and he's never ruled out tinkering with the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format in an effort to create the "Game 7 moments" he covets.

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