Texas Motor Speedway pole sitter Jimmie Johnson has suggestions for fixing NASCAR qualifying
NASCAR qualifying has seen some changes on the track over 1-mile for 2019. It’s not that the format is any different to tracks under 1-mile. But, it might be soon.
At the larger tracks, drafting has come into play. This was spawned by the new 2019 rules package which sees less horsepower and more downforce at the typical mile and a half facilities.
It pays tenths of a second to be in the draft. When the field is this close, that could be the difference between 12th and 1st when it comes to the final round of knockout qualifying. They don’t want to be the first car off the pit lane.
Teams pull to the edge of the pit lane and wait as the clock drops to the final minute. When it gets there, everyone hits the track at once.
There’s two staging lanes on the pit lane. The middle lane must remain open. If a driver heads into that lane, he must continue onto the race track. But, how fast does he need to leave that lane? It’s not specified, so they crawl and thus the middle lane become clogged.
As of now, NASCAR isn’t pleased. Qualifying at the speedways isn’t going the way it was drawn up in the board room.
Jimmie Johnson finished two laps down two weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway. On Sunday, he put it on the pole.
Jimmie Johnson on NASCAR qualifying
Bob Pockrass: Is it ok if you’re a little unsure of the rules when it comes to leaving the pit lane?
“I think we all knew there would be some challenges with this rules package.”
“We all know that for television we don’t want single car qualifying. I mean we’re just dealing with some issues that we’re all trying to work through collectively.”
“NASCAR’s trying to keep an open mind. They don’t want to overreact. We’re competitors, so we’re trying to work the system the best we can.”
“If rulings come down, I think we’re just going to have to be open minded to it.”
“Once you get into that final round, it’s either 12th or the pole. If you make that final round, you’re going to risk it all. That waiting game was certainly going on.”
It could also be last. If a driver fails to turn a lap because they waited too long then their time in all rounds will be disallowed and they will start at the back. Drivers waited for the groups. At least all of them except Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.
“Suarez went out there by himself, 4th. That’s why it’s so hard for NASCAR to pick a way to call this or how to officiate it. It seams like single car would have worked just fine. But, we don’t know that until now,” Johnson stated after qualifying.
“It’s just tricky. I appreciate the fans being open minded about this as it evolves. It’s just a moving target.”
Jimmie Johnson thinks the format is close
Dustin Long: Is this qualifying format close? Or is it way off?
“I think it’s close. We’re having a hard time running flat in turns 1-2. That’s all the difference in the world you need,” Johnson stated.
“If you have to lift, single car qualifying become a priority for the teams. Fontana’s a bit different because the straight-aways are so dang long. Fontana and Michigan are the two outliers.”
“In Vegas, RCR did single car. The rest of us were drafting. I think we’re close. Those 2 mile tracks might need a little different qualifying set of rules.”
“My first reaction is, single car. Well, now if you do single car the teams are going to work so hard to make the cars slippery for single car. It’s just 4-5 times the work to go from qualifying trim to race trim.”
“Maybe if it’s single car and impound. If you gotta race what you qualify, that could be a way to control that a bit more. That would be a suggestion to consider for Michigan.”
An impound race would mean that teams can’t change much on the car at all from qualifying to the race. The cars sit in a restricted area, untouched until race day.
The waiting game in NASCAR qualifying
Elliott Stern: Is nerve racking sitting there? Watching the clock and waiting?
“It is really weird. You gotta be on your toes,” Johnson explained.
“Things continue to change. The longer I’m in the sport, the more it changes.”
“You just have to keep an open mind. Be observant, study. Make sure you show up at the track prepared.”
“With these different packages, it’s tricky. There’s different things to make the car go at Phoenix or Martinsville than here at Texas. Even how to fall in a hole in qualifying and get the right draft to try and get to the top of the board.”