CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will tweak how it sets its NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup after drivers complained that their group designation heavily impacted their spot on the starting grid.
NASCAR splits the drivers into two groups for qualifying based on a metric that includes previous race finish, point standings and fastest lap in the previous race. The fastest five cars in each group in single-car qualifying advanced to a final round to set the starting order for the first 10 spots, while the remainder of the field was set by its qualifying speed.
Depending on the track and conditions (weather, tire buildup that created grip, etc.), it wasn’t rare to see one group have significantly higher times than the other. So a driver who finished sixth in the group and just missed a spot in the top-10 sometimes was starting outside the top-15.
To eliminate that, those who qualify in the first group (Group A) will start on the outside row for Rows 6-20 while those who qualify in the second group (Group B) will start on the inside row for Rows 6-20. The lineup for the first 10 spots will continue to be determined by the final round for qualifying. Drivers don’t qualify in groups at superspeedways, so this won’t be applicable for those events.
NASCAR announced the lineup change during its annual competition briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Among other notable procedure changes for 2024:
–NASCAR will no longer require teams to have windshield wipers or rain flaps for the short tracks with the only “wet weather” package items being grooved tires and a defogger. While it would race in a drizzle or light rain on road courses, NASCAR will not race in the rain at short tracks and will only race in damp conditions with no spray.
–Because a team’s spot in the qualifying order typically is better if it doesn’t change drivers from the previous race, teams had been waiting until after the qualifying orders had been posted on Wednesdays before making a change. NASCAR now has said if teams wait, the driver will go first in the group (typically the worst spot in the order).
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–NASCAR will continue to use mufflers for the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Chicago street race but will use a different design to decrease the amount of heat in the cars generated by the mufflers.
–At the Clash, NASCAR will hold a demonstration run of a battery-run electric vehicle it has developed. There are no current plans to have an electric series but NASCAR is developing technology looking at potential electric vehicles and/or hydrogen-fueled vehicles.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.