The protocol for starting lineups and pit selection was announced Tuesday (May 12) as NASCAR draws closer to its return this weekend at Darlington Raceway.
According to a report from NASCAR, only the Coca-Cola 600 will feature Cup Series qualifying in the four-race stretch over the next several weeks. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the revised schedule for NASCAR’s premier series has four races on tap in May: two at Darlington Raceway and two at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with only the third of the four hosting qualifying. These limitations come as a direct result of the pandemic, aimed at minimizing exposure.
For the first race back at Darlington, positions 1-12, 13-24 and 25-36 will be determined by a random draw from charter teams in those respective segments in owner points. Starting spots 37-40 will be filled with non-chartered teams in order of owner points.
The finishing order of the first race at Darlington will contribute to how the second race’s starting field will look. Sunday’s top 20 finishers will be inverted for spots 1-20 on Wednesday (May 20), and the same will be applied to finishers 21-40 for the spots in the second race. Any new entries will start at the back of the field.
Charter team owner points will initially determine pit stall selection and then other team owner points after that. Selection for Wednesday night will be dictated by Sunday’s finishing results.
Same-day qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 will set the field as normal for the race, while a similar inversion of the finishing order will be used to order the second race at Charlotte; finishers 1-20 and then 21-40 will be reversed. Additionally, qualifying for NASCAR’s longest race will determine pit stall selection, and results from that race are set to determine stall selection for the second event on Wednesday, May 27.
In NASCAR’s two other national touring divisions, random draws will determine the starting lineup for all upcoming races. For the Xfinity Series’ races at Darlington and Charlotte, separate random draws for starting positions 1-12, 13-24 and 25-36 will be held. For spots 37-40, eligibility will determine the assignment of those positions on the grid.
Qualifying results from the Xfinity Series’ most recent race at Phoenix Raceway in March will determine pit selection at Darlington, meaning first choice will go to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54.
The same protocol will be used for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, albeit with spots tailored to the size of the field – separate random draws will be held for positions 1-10, 11-21 and 22-32, while positions 33-40 will be for teams in those positions in owner points, with a subsequent draw for new teams with no owner points.
Pit selection for the Truck Series is determined by the qualifying order from their most recent race at Las Vegas in February. Johnny Sauter‘s No. 13 ThorSport Racing team will have first dibs.
In addition to the lineup changes, a modified competition caution procedure has been implemented for every event without practice, taking place early in the race. The field will be frozen to allow for extended pit stops and extra adjustments.
While no wave-around will be allowed, the free pass rule will still be in effect and each car will retain its original position prior to pitting. The top 20 cars will be allowed to pit first, with the bottom 20 admitted on the following lap, and that cycle will repeat as well.
For the respective races, the cautions will fly at various lap marks, all to be determined except for the first two races back – for the Cup Series race at Darlington on May 17, it will be waved at lap 30; on Tuesday, May 19, the Xfinity Series will go under caution at lap 15.
Sunday’s Cup Series race at Darlington will take the green flag shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 17, followed by the Xfinity Series at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night (May 19).