NASCAR Cup Series teams will continue to qualify in two groups this season, but an adjustment has been made for where drivers starting 11th through 40th will line up.
The drivers who are in Group A who don’t advance to the final round of qualifying will start on the outside row. The drivers from Group B will make up the inside row. There will be no change to the top 10 drivers who make the final round.
NASCAR will use the procedure for all tracks except the superspeedways, where it is single car qualifying. That includes the Daytona 500 where the front row will be locked in during single car qualifying followed by the rest of the field during the two Bluegreen Vacations Duel races.
Industry feedback prompted the change. Both the track and weather conditions can change throughout qualifying, meaning one group can wind up with more favorable conditions over the other.
The adjustment will only be in effect for qualifying. Once the race is underway, drivers have the option to choose their lane for a restart.
The group assignments for qualifying (determining which drivers are in which group) will not change. That is based on a performance metric combining statistics from the previous event: 15% fastest lap time, 25% of the driver’s finishing position, 25% of the owner’s finishing position and 35% of the owner points position.
NASCAR also revealed that if a driver has an issue in Cup Series qualifying and suffers four flat tires to where they cannot drive back to pit road, a tow dolly system will be used. Since the Next Gen car debuted in 2022, NASCAR has fought the problem of cars becoming stuck on the track with flat tires. However, the new system will only be used in qualifying and not in the race, as NASCAR wants to assess its effectiveness and ensure it will not extend caution periods.