After a fiasco of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session at Auto Club Speedway in early March, NASCAR has made changes to qualifying going forward. The new rules will officially begin at Texas Motor Speedway this coming weekend.
From now on, drivers must continue onto the racetrack once they leave their “designated starting area.” That means they cannot park at the end of pit road and wait, as seen at Auto Club.
If NASCAR finds that a driver is intentionally blocking pit road, they will disqualify the driver’s lap times from previous rounds. The driver would then start the race at the rear of the field. Furthermore, if a driver cannot begin a lap before the clock expires in a round, as all 12 drivers experienced during the final round of qualifying at Fontana, they will start the race at the rear of the field, due to their previous times being disallowed.
NASCAR is not forcing drivers to leave the pits at a certain time. Instead, they cannot wait at the end of pit road.
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller explained the situation to NASCAR.com.
“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,” Miller said.
A return to single car qualifying to most oval tracks on the circuit was never on the table for the sanctioning body.
“Single-car qualifying is two things – it’s boring and it’s expensive,” he added. “It also doesn’t create a good 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.”