NASCAR changes qualifying format for Sonoma, Watkins Glen

Todd Warshaw

Group qualifying will be used to set the starting the lineup at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, NASCAR announced Monday.

NASCAR announced a new qualifying format Monday for the two Sprint Cup Series road course races.

The new procedure does away with traditional single-file runs and sees the implementation of group qualifying at the Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International events.

Drivers will now be divided into groups by final practice times, with each group being on the track for a predetermined amount of time. A driver's best lap during their session will count as their qualifying lap.

"The change will add an exciting element to road-course qualifying," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "Fans will be treated to new strategy and increased competition with several cars on track at once."

With qualifying at Sonoma and Watkins Glen often a monotonous affair, this change should make time trials more exciting with multiple cars on the track at one time and teams using varying strategies in an attempt to secure the pole.

The same format is currently used in the Nationwide Series with great fanfare.

"This is going to be a terrific new format for our NASCAR weekend," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. "It will intensify the action, with multiple cars on the track at the same time. It's a very positive development for our fans."

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