NASCAR bans qualifying cool-down laps; cooling units allowed on pit road

Nick Laham

After narrowly avoiding a potentially bad accident last week at Las Vegas, NASCAR changed how qualifying sessions are run ahead of Bristol.

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After multiple drivers expressed safety concerns, NASCAR is modifying its new knockout qualifying format immediately.

Beginning Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, drivers will not be permitted to run cool-down laps to better cool their engines. Teams will also now be permitted to use cooling systems attached to their engines through flaps on the hood, which must remain closed as adjustments are not allowed, and two crewman will be allowed over the wall (up from one).

The practice of cooling engines by running slowly around the track has drawn much criticism. This past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, an at-speed Reed Sorenson nearly made contact with Brian Vickers, who was running significantly slower.

In an interview with Fox Sports 1, Vickers said the tactic was "the most dangerous thing" he's ever done in a race car and called for the sanctioning body to make changes. This sentiment was expressed by many a driver.

"We've got to (ride around the bottom), it's the only way to keep the engine cool," Vickers said after Friday's session. "But that has got to be the most dangerous thing I've ever done in racing. The 36 (car) went by me at 170 mph faster than I was going. Had he slipped or hit me, I'd be done. It would be so bad."

NASCAR had said it wanted to give the new format time before making tweaks. However, with Bristol -- a 0.533-mile oval and the second shortest track on the schedule -- forthcoming it was an opportune time to announce changes, which occurred during a conference call Tuesday with crew chiefs.

"The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said in a statement. "Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.

"We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds."

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