SBD/January 23, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR Changes Qualifying Procedures, Similar To Those In IndyCar, F1

NASCAR will use three rounds of qualifying at tracks larger than 1.25 miles
NASCAR yesterday officially unveiled its "qualifying format changes for 2014, switching to a group 'knockout' qualifying process" in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, according to Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The "premise of the new format -- a version of which has been used in Formula One and the IndyCar Series -- is elimination of slower cars until the 12 fastest are produced, which will comprise the first six rows of each race." The change is a "precursor to an expected announcement next week of even larger changes to NASCAR’s Chase playoff format, which will include elimination rounds." NASCAR under the new qualifying procedures will "use three rounds of qualifying at tracks 1.25 miles in length or larger." Qualifying at tracks smaller than 1.25 miles "will be in two segments." Nationwide and Truck teams will "use the new format next month at Daytona, but the Cup series will retain its traditional qualifying format for the Daytona 500." Although NASCAR "considered the idea, it will not award points to pole winners" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/23).

FOR THE FANS: USA TODAY's Jeff Gluck writes fans who come to the track will "see a more entertaining show." The fans at home "will actually have a reason to tune in," and NASCAR will "get some drama two days before the cars race." The change "probably will be popular with fans, so NASCAR should enjoy any positive feedback while it can." Meanwhile, the new format will "fit neatly into a one-hour TV window." That "matters to NASCAR TV partners" such as FS1 and ESPN, which "split the qualifying broadcasts during the season." If there is rain in the area, NASCAR "could set the field in just 30 minutes of dry time instead of needing a two-hour window to get a long time trials session completed" (USA TODAY, 1/23). In Massachusetts, Jason Remillard noted while NASCAR "doesn't need to compete" with IndyCar and F1 for fans in the U.S., it "says a lot about those two open-wheel organizations that NASCAR is adopting a similar style of qualifying" (MASSLIVE.com, 1/22). ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wondered, "What could it possibly hurt?" It "couldn't possibly be any more boring, or irrelevant to how a given race will actually unfold, than it has been in recent years." Hinton: "No doubt this will be a lot more fun ... and it will be a bigger draw for TV audiences, and actually might put some people in the grandstands at the tracks. So, sure, it's a gimmick in a way. NASCAR, like all other sports leagues, has every right to woo more spectators with better entertainment." By making qualifying "more entertaining, NASCAR is also making qualifying more relevant" (ESPN.com, 1/22).
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