NASCAR puts field on more equal footing

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.


NASCAR is changing its Sprint Cup qualifying rules, effective next week at Pocono Raceway and continuing through the remainder of the season.

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Prerace coverage from Kansas begins June 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX.


Qualifying order will be determined by the driver’s fastest lap in first practice. The times on the speed sheet will be inverted with the slowest cars attempting their qualifying runs first.

The go-or-go-home cars will now qualify among the 35 teams locked in on owner points and not be separated by the field.

"Since we’ve taken the randomness out of qualifying, everyone’s destiny is in their own hands,” said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby. “Initially we separated the groups because it really didn’t feel good that you had the chance to draw second or the chance to draw 43rd, for example. And that’s a lot of time differential. Now that we’re creating that qualifying order by practice speeds — so there is no randomness. It’s up to you where you qualify.

“From a flow, it will make qualifying go easier. Now, it’s like you start it and stop it and start it and stop it. Now we will have a nice continuous flow of cars.”

The procedure changes in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway, respectively.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup director does reserve the right to change a driver’s qualifying order or allow “adjustments or repairs” to cars after the car has taken the green flag at the start/finish line. And all cars must still qualify with a full fuel cell.

According to the NASCAR bulletin: "Qualifying consists of two consecutive timed laps (EIRI). The fastest lap determines qualifying position. NASCAR reserves the right to have more than one car engage in qualifying runs at the same time. Cars will be released in selected increments until all cars have had an opportunity to attempt qualifying."

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EIRI stands for "except in rare instances."

In case of a rain-out of practice, a random drawing will be held for cars set up in the garage area to determine qualifying. A team representative will draw the number unless the car is not present, then the driver must draw the number. If a member of the team is not available for the drawing, that number will be randomly selected by a NASCAR official.

If qualifying is rained out, the order of the field will be set according to Section 9-5 of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup rule book.

According to the rule book "all available starting positions will first be assigned to those car owners who have entered in the event prior to the drawing deadline. All available starting positions will be assigned including those starting positions previously designated as provisional starting positions on the Official Entry Blank. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship points for the event will be assigned to those non-qualifier car owners provided they have entered in the event prior to the entry deadline."

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