The sanctioning body has just provided a major update about the Cup Series season. NASCAR has released the updated practice and qualifying format for the 2022 season, which will involve a “knockout” format.
The majority of Cup Series races will feature shortened practice sessions that make up the first round. The drivers will take place in 15-minute practices at ovals and 20-minute practices at road courses. They will then immediately battle in qualifying laps. The drivers will split into two groups at oval courses and run one lap. The fastest five cars from each group will move on. The road course will feature drivers in two groups taking part in 15-minute timed sessions with the fastest five from each group moving on.
These final drivers will then battle for the fastest time and the Busch Pole. The road courses will have another 10-minute session while ovals will use a one-lap qualifying run to determine the starting order.
One key note is that the certain tracks will have two-lap qualifying runs instead of just one. This list includes Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Dover International Speedway, and Martinsville Speedway.
The biggest piece of news is that all three series have scheduled practice and qualifying sessions for every race in 2022. The past two seasons have taken place largely without these sessions to determine the starting order as NASCAR primarily used a formula based on previous races on the schedule. 2021, in particular, only featured eight weekends with practice and qualifying.
Bristol Dirt & Superspeedways Use a Separate Format
The ovals and road courses feature a straightforward practice and qualifying format, but the situation changes for other tracks. The superspeedways and Bristol dirt race will have their own unique setups.
The Bristol dirt race, in particular, will have the longest practice sessions. The drivers will take part in two, 50-minute sessions on the dirt surface. They will then take part in four qualifying races to determine the starting order. NASCAR will use a random draw to determine the qualifying lineups.
The superspeedways in Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway will feature two rounds of qualifying. Round one will feature all cars as they take part in single-lap qualifying. The fastest 10 will then move on to the final round and another single-lap qualifying session. The Daytona 500 will feature a different format as part of an “expanded weekend.”
‘Expanded Weekends’ Shake Up the Schedule Further
Another big takeaway from the practice and format announcement is that certain weekends are labeled as “expanded.” These events generally feature all three national series at the same track, but some will receive the expanded label even if only one series is active.
According to NASCAR’s announcement, the expanded weekends will feature one, 50-minute practice session instead of a time that varies based on track style. These weekends will feature practice separate from qualifying. The drivers will then take part in the qualifying format based on each particular track style.
The Daytona 500 weekend, Atlanta, Bristol dirt, World Wide Technology Raceway, Nashville, and Phoenix championship weekend all fall under this category for the Cup Series.
The Xfinity Series expanded schedule includes Daytona, Atlanta, Portland, Nashville, and Phoenix championship weekend. The Truck Series expanded schedule features Daytona, Atlanta, Bristol dirt, Knoxville, Sonoma, Mid-Ohio, Nashville, and Phoenix championship weekend.
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