DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- NASCAR officials announced Wednesday a dramatic change would be made in the way qualifying is to be conducted this year in its three racing series.
Instead of a single qualifying session in which the fastest competitor wins the pole, there will be a series of qualifying events during which the field will be reduced.
The new method of qualifying will be similar to that used for Formula One races and for IndyCar events held on either road or street courses.
The revised format will be used for Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series races. At tracks measuring 1.25 miles and longer, there will be three qualifying sessions. At tracks that are less than 1.25 miles, only two sessions will be held.
Only at the Daytona 500 will the previously used method of qualifying be employed.
"The new format is something that we've been looking at for quite some time," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "The goal is providing a more fan- friendly and exciting qualifying session for each race event across the board."
Qualifying will begin with all the entrants in a race traveling around the track for 25 minutes. The fastest lap produced by each car will be determined and the 24 fastest cars will move on to the second round.
The second round will last 10 minutes and the fastest 12 cars will then move on to the next round, which will be five minutes in length. The fastest car in the final session will win the pole..
There will be five minutes between each qualifying session.
For short tracks the opening session will be 30 minutes long with the top 12 advancing to the final session, which will be 10 minutes.
The first Sprint Cup race at which the new qualifying format will be used will be the Phoenix race March 2.