DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR confirmed Monday afternoon a myriad of changes to the group qualifying procedure for all three of its national series ahead of this weekend’s races at Texas Motor Speedway.
The new policies and deterrence measures were distributed in an email memo to teams.
Starting this weekend in Texas, any driver who does not take a lap in a qualifying round – be it the first, second or third session – will have all their previous laps disallowed and be forced to start from the tail of the field in that series’ race event.
Previously, a driver could fall back on their time from a previous round, a rule that gave Austin Dillon the Busch Pole Award at Auto Club Speedway as the fastest driver from round two.
In addition, any driver who is found in NASCAR’s judgment to be blocking pit road in such a way that prohibits other drivers from leaving to start a qualifying run will incur a penalty, such as disallowing that driver’s qualifying time(s) or barring it from future rounds.
Beginning at Texas, vehicles which are not making an immediate attempt to qualify will be staged in a track-specific area designated by NASCAR, but once a vehicle leaves that area it is immediately required to move onto the track and cannot wait on pit road to roll out.
NASCAR’s goal with the rules updates is to prevent a similar situation as what happened in Fontana, when none of the 12 teams in the final round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying made it to start a lap before the five-minute clock expired.
The structure and current timing of the three qualifying rounds will not change, and NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller noted that going back to single-car qualifying was never an option that was considered.
“Qualifying is an important element of the race weekend, and NASCAR has worked closely with the teams to implement a procedure that is both fair from a competition perspective and entertaining for our fans,” said Miller. “Starting this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, we will implement a procedural change that will be in effect for all three national series. We expect the updated procedure to result in a better outcome for drivers, fans and our track and broadcast partners.
“One of the things we wanted to hold true to is not to go back to single car qualifying,” Miller noted in an additional statement to NASCAR.com. “We definitely have to provide our fans with something that’s intriguing to watch and gets them excited about coming back and watching the race.”