NASCAR has changed its format for qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks as it seeks to find the right combination of generating excitement for fans and awarding starting spots to the most deserving teams and drivers.
With its group qualifying format in February at Daytona International Speedway resulting in drivers trying to fall to the rear of the pack in order to draft and get the best speed, NASCAR will return to a single-car qualifying format starting with the race at Talladega Superspeedway in May.
Each car will get one timed lap, and NASCAR will release the cars in an order that will prevent drafting but could have more than one car on the track at the same time. The 12 drivers with the fastest speeds will advance to a second round, where they will get another single-car, one-lap run to determine the pole and starting positions for the first six rows.
The new format will eliminate the wrecks and the jockeying in the draft that occurred during Daytona 500 qualifying, a format that was heavily criticized by drivers. It won't take as long, though, as previous two-lap, single-car qualifying sessions at Daytona and Talladega.
NASCAR instituted group qualifying in 2014, and the format has worked well at most tracks except Daytona and Talladega, the high-banked superspeedways where NASCAR requires the use of restrictor plates that significantly reduce air flow through the engine to slow down the cars, and often results in the cars running in one big pack.