NASCAR Teams Preparing for Altered Practice & Qualifying: Report

NASCAR Practice

Getty Aric Almirola practices at Road America on July 3.

The top three series in NASCAR have spent the majority of the past two seasons competing in races without practice sessions or qualifying. However, the situation will change for the 2022 season. According to a report from Bob Pockrass, practice and qualifying will return with some significant changes.

The longtime NASCAR reporter provided a look at what the 2022 setup will be with a tweet on Wednesday, Sept. 22. He noted that teams expect shorter practice sessions — roughly 20-30 minutes in length. Crews will not be able to make adjustments under the car during the sessions and then they will go straight into qualifying after the practice session comes to an end. NASCAR officials will then impound the stock cars until the start of the race.

Pockrass continued and explained that this setup is not yet final. He noted that the sanctioning body is still hammering out all of the details before making official announcements. Additionally, the Truck Series and Xfinity Series details remain undetermined prior to the release of the 2022 schedules.

NASCAR Held Limited Events With Practice & Qualifying in 2021

William Byron

GettyWilliam Byron celebrates winning the Busch Pole at Indianapolis.

The Cup Series drivers started the 2020 season with the standard setup of practice and qualifying. They competed for the fastest lap at Daytona International Speedway, Phoenix, and the Auto Club Speedway while rain disrupted qualifying at Las Vegas. However, the situation changed after the COVID-19-forced postponement.

When NASCAR returned from a break on May 17, 2020, the drivers faced a new setup. The sanctioning body set the starting lineups each week instead of having the various stock cars head out onto the track each week. The only race that featured qualifying was the 2020 Coca-Cola 600 when Kurt Busch won the Busch Pole with a lap speed of 181.269 mph.

The 2021 season featured a limited setup, albeit with some changes. The majority of races had a predetermined lineup while only a few featured practice and qualifying. The drivers were able to turn in sessions at Daytona International Speedway, Circuit of the Americas, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Road America, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The championship race at Phoenix will also have practice and qualifying. Bristol Motor Speedway’s sessions on the dirt track did not take place due to the heavy rainfall.

The Drivers & Owners Have Strong Opinions About the Costs

While NASCAR returned to several pre-COVID schedules during the 2021 season, the sanctioning body still moved forward with limited qualifying. One reason is that running these sessions is more expensive for the various teams. With the Cup Series switching to the Next Gen car in 2022, NASCAR kept the costs lower.

In 2022, however, the top series will likely return to the practice and qualifying format. Teams will have the opportunity to earn a spot in each race instead of hoping that they have enough points to compete. Though they will have rising costs.

“The owner in me is not excited about [the return of qualifying],” Xfinity Series driver-owner Jordan Anderson told Heavy during an early September interview. “You save a lot [of money] by not practicing and qualifying even though it put our season completely on the sidelines. You don’t have the extra miles on your motors and the tires, the extra nights in hotel rooms and on the road. So definitely a trade-off there.

“But the driver in me is like, ‘man, please, please bring back practice and qualifying’ because sometimes it takes 30-40 laps into a race to finally kind of get the hang of the track and how your car’s handling. … Either way, I think NASCAR has done a great job with kind of ebbing and flowing with what’s happened this year and keeping the sport growing strong.”

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