NASCAR issues memo to teams: Group qualifying will remain, but with a few tweaks

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 15: Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Coatings Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 15, 2019 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR will keep group qualifying, with a few tweaks to avoid the embarrassing situation that occurred at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago that saw none of the 12 cars in final round complete a timed lap.

NASCAR issued a memo to teams Monday with several qualifying procedure updates and additional deterrence measures, for all three NASCAR national series prior to the upcoming race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

It’s obvious that NASCAR officials are trying to ensure that what happened at Auto Club won’t happen again. To that end Monday’s memo spells out changes that will put more control in the hands of NASCAR officials.

Beginning this weekend, any driver that fails to put down a timed lap during any of the qualifying rounds will start from the back of the field. That means that the 12 drivers who did not put down a timed lap at Auto Club would have been sent to the back of the field instead of using their times from the previous rounds.

In addition, cars won’t be allowed to block the exit of pit road. Those that do will incur a penalty, such as disallowing that team’s posted qualifying speed and/or disqualifying that car from additional qualifying rounds.

“The inherent problem (at Auto Club) was obviously everybody waiting to the end, and it being unorderly on the end of pit road with people blocking and playing all kinds of games,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller told “So really, we want to retake control and make order out of pit road and the way that drivers leave.

“We want to allow every competitor the chance to leave pit road when they want to leave and not be at the mercy of somebody else.”

Also new; cars not immediately heading out to make a lap must stage on pit road in an area designated by NASCAR. If a car leaves that area, it must go out on the track and make a timed lap.

NASCAR will keep the three round knockout qualifying sessions.

“One of the things we wanted to hold true to is not to go back to single-car qualifying,” Miller said. “Single-car qualifying is two things – it’s boring and it’s expensive. It also doesn’t create a good show.

“Anytime we go on the track it should be a show. Certainly, we are in, first and foremost, the racing business. But we’re also in show business. 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.”