Sunday, September 26, 2021

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Sprint Cup Knock-Out Qualifying: The Positives and Negatives

Last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, NASCAR rolled out the first round of knock-out qualifying. The idea was to shorten the qualifying session, while making it more exciting for the fans. The results? Mixed reviews.

Pro to the idea as it certainly shortened the qualifying session and made it more desirable for fans to watch. Rather than being bored with two hours of single-car runs, it was a quick hour filled with cars on the track throughout.

Negative to the TV coverage as FOX Sports 1 ran behind in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup qualifying. NASCAR is supposed to be doing this to make it easier for the TV broadcasters. In exchange, you’d think that they’d properly carry it live. Not being able to see it live takes the excitement out of it when you have other places announcing the pole winner before completion.

Pro to the excitement that it brought. As it got into the final minutes of the segment, the questions surrounding who’d make it in with a last minute ditch effort to those who fell out got people talking. It certainly generated buzz and gave excitement to the format.

Negative to the cooling system deal. NASCAR won’t let teams use the cooling systems that they normally attach to the cars to cool them down. As a result, drivers were going out and merely coasting along the bottom of the track in an effort to manually cool their cars. This is a safety hazard, especially when you have drivers on track trying to rip off that big lap.

“When you’re going out there and you’re going 100 mph slower, the closing rate is really fast, so it gets kind of scary,” Joey Logano said after qualifying second on Friday.  “[With cool-down units], the cars would also go out more often. It takes so long to cool, so if you can do it in five minutes and go back out, there would be more cars on the race track to do a hot lap.”

With Las Vegas being a bigger track, expect this to be a bigger issue due to higher speeds and an even quicker closing rate. Could you imagine if someone got into someone?

Pro to the fact that nobody got in the way of someone’s run and you didn’t have someone blaming a poor lap due to another competitor. That was one of the fears going into the format that people wouldn’t be able to space out their runs enough, but it looked as if everybody was able to do that. Considering Phoenix is one of the shorter tracks on the circuit, that was nice to see. However, don’t put this issue to rest just yet as we have yet to hit the true short tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.


The system was something new and already teams are looking for ways to put out the best lap. Look for that to continue as everybody learns about the system, and whether it continues to grow on fans, or whether it loses interest.

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