NASCAR changes rules for qualifying

NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying changes Nationwide field size limits announced

NASCAR officials are ramping up the importance of speed in qualifying for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, changing the rule concerning the number of teams locked into the field. The sanctioning body announced a series of rule changes Tuesday.

First on the list is changing Cup qualifying. The fastest 36 cars in qualifying will now make the race based on speed through what the sanctioning body deemed a 36-6-1 format. The next six highest ranking cars in owners points that have not already earned a spot in qualifying - and that entered the race by the entry deadline - will be locked into the event. The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent eligible past champion driver. If there is no eligible past champion driver, then a seventh car will make the field based upon owners’ points.

Those spots will line up by owners' points, not speed.

That eliminates the top-35 rule put in place in 2005 in which the teams in those positions in the owners points were guaranteed a slot in the field.

“This is a big win for our fans,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “They’ll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying.”

In addition, qualifying order will once more be determined by a random draw as it was in the past, not based on practice speeds. In the event qualifying is canceled due to rain, the field will be set per the rule book and the starting lineup will continue to be determined by practice speeds.

Additionally, provisional positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series will be based upon the previous year’s owner points for the first three races, as opposed to the first five races in previous years.

The sanctioning body also officially announced changes to the testing policy in 2013.

Next year in the Sprint Cup series, there will be up to four tests per organization available to teams at tracks at which the series competes. Since 2009, teams could only test at tracks that did not hold NASCAR national series events.

“We feel like it’s time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back to facilities that host our events,” said Pemberton. “We made the decision at the end of 2008 to restrict testing, primarily for economic reasons. Now we believe it will be best for the garage and for the tracks to have some testing return in 2013.”

That number is two tests per organization for Nationwide and Truck teams, except those with official rookie candidates, who will get an additional test.

In addition, NASCAR will open track activity early for extended practice at two additional events per series with those to be determined.

In another critical change, the field will shrink for the Nationwide Series.

In what a NASCAR release states as "an effort to strengthen the ownership base up and create a sense of urgency among teams to make races," the field will be 40 cars as opposed to the standard 43-car field. 

Cup fields will remain at 43 cars with the Truck fields holding at 36 entries.

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