NASCAR has announced a number of competition changes for the 2013 season, highlighted by a new qualifying format for the Sprint Cup Series in which the fastest 36 cars will make the race on speed.
In Sprint Cup competition, the series will move to a 36-6-1 format where the fastest 36 cars will make the race on speed. The next six highest ranking cars in owners points that have not already earned a starting position through qualifying and who have entered the event by the posted entry deadline will also make the field. The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent eligible past champion driver. If there is no eligible past champion driver, then a seventh car will make the field based upon owners' points.
Provisional positions in the 36-6-1 format will be lined up by owners' points, not speed.
Since 2005, the top 35 cars in owners' points were guaranteed a spot in the field. Now, only a maximum of seven cars will be locked into a given race.
"This is a big win for our fans," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vp of competition. "They'll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying."
In 2013, the qualifying order for Sprint Cup Series events will return to a random draw. However, in the event qualifying is canceled due to rain, the field will be set per the rule book and the starting lineup will continue to be determined by practice speeds.
Additionally, provisional positions in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will be based upon the previous year's owner points for the first three races, as opposed to the first five races in previous years for the Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series, and four races for the Camping World Truck Series.
Testing policy opened up for 2013
Beginning next season in the Sprint Cup Series, there will be up to four tests per organization available to teams at tracks at which the series competes. Since 2009, teams could only test at tracks that did not hold NASCAR national series events.
"We feel like it's time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back to facilities that host our events," said Pemberton. "We made the decision at the end of 2008 to restrict testing, primarily for economic reasons. Now we believe it will be best for the garage and for the tracks to have some testing return in 2013."
For the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, starting in 2013, there will be up to two tests per organization at tracks where those series compete. If the organization has an official Sunoco Rookie of Year candidate, then that team will receive one additional test. Additionally, NASCAR will open track activity early for extended practice at two additional events per series, to be determined.
Maximum field set at 40 cars for Nationwide Series
In an effort to strengthen the ownership base up and create a sense of urgency among teams to make races, the maximum starting field for the Nationwide Series will be set at 40, as opposed to the 43-car field in previous years.
A maximum Sprint Cup Series starting field will remain at 43 cars while the Camping World Truck Series will hold steady at 36.