Friday marks the introduction of a radical new qualifying format in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that’s sure to garner headlines throughout the week and peak fan and television viewer interest.
Under the new procedure, qualifying at Phoenix will be a race within a race, with a two-round, knockout-qualifying format on the mile oval. Drivers will race their way into the starting grid instead of the traditional single-car qualifying.
On Friday at Phoenix:
· The first qualifying elimination round includes the entire field and will be 30 minutes.
· The 12 fastest single-lap times from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round. Those not advancing will start based on the order of their speeds in the first round.
· After a 10 minute break, the second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes with the fastest single lap time determining positions first through 12th.
· Another round is added for oval tracks larger than 1.25 miles.
No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine driver Brian Vickers embraces the new format and thinks the fans will be the ultimate winners. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver would like nothing better than to take the first pole under the new format. The 30-year-old Thomasville, N.C. native ran in the top ten throughout Sunday’s Daytona 500 until a late-race multicar accident ruined his chances for victory and left him with a 30th-place finish. Vickers got an early start out west leaving for Los Angeles Monday where he will film a new Aaron’s television commercial on Tuesday.
BRIAN VICKERS ON NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT: “I'm good with it. I think it's going to create a little bit more excitement, for sure. It's kind of that knockout style qualifying, but it's not like we're going to go out there and run six laps. You're still going to go out there and you're going to tape up and you're going to go as hard and fast as you can for a lap. I think it's going to be very similar for us, but I think it's going to create more excitement for the fans. That's a win-win in my book."
VICKERS PHOENIX: “In some ways this is like the first race of the season. We only restrictor plate race at Daytona and Talladega, but the thought process of being successful at Phoenix is more like what we will experience for the whole year. Success at Phoenix will be about getting your car right in practice, getting a good qualifying spot and then putting together a good race program. It’s been a busy time with off-season testing, Daytona, filming for Aaron’s in Los Angeles this week, Phoenix this weekend and Las Vegas next week, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”