NASCAR Adds Zip to Qualifying – Las Vegas First To Adopt Format

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As seen through a fisheye lens, the crowd watches the opening laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Jason Bean/Las Vegas Review-Journal File)

By MARK ANDERSON
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

NASCAR fans who would like to see more race-like conditions during qualifying are going to get it.

The organization announced Wednesday that, following the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 23, it will discard of single-car qualifying in favor of an elimination system.

NASCAR will go with two sets of elimination formats depending on the size of the track, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway will get first crack at one of them. The speedway will use three qualifying segments March 7 to set the field two days later for the Kobalt 400.

LVMS president Chris Powell applauded NASCAR’s decision to alter the format.

“The new approach should add significant excitement to our Stratosphere Pole Day coming up on March 7,” Powell said in a statement.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the drivers and teams apply various strategies to assure their places in the weekend’s events — given that our NASCAR Weekend marks the first event employing the three-session format on a 1.5-mile superspeedway.”

For tracks 1.25 miles or longer, such as LVMS, three qualifying segments will take place. All cars will participate in an opening 25-minute session, and the 24 fastest cars (based on the highest single lap for each) advance to the next round. Then the top 24 runs for 10 minutes, with half moving on to a final 5-minute session.

Shorter tracks will use a 30-minute session followed by a 10-minute, 12-car final round.

The new qualifying format, which is used in Formula One and IndyCar, will be used in all three major NASCAR series.

“We evaluate a lot of things over time, and this is one of those that the timing is right for us and we believe that the fans will be receptive to this,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development.

“All the ones we’ve talked to so far think it’s a great idea. The competitors think it’s a great idea.

“I’ve got to believe it’s better for any of the sponsors. It’s better for Coors and Keystone, and it’s going to be a better show for TV, and the people at home will have a better opportunity to watch these guys qualify.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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