NASCAR announces new knockout qualifying format

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Taking a page from the playbooks of Formula One and the IndyCar Series, NASCAR will adopt a form of knockout-style qualifying across all three of its national series: Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck.

NASCAR will use two or three-round sessions depending on the length of each track. Here are the main details:

FOR TRACKS LESS THAN 1.25 MILES LONG – TWO ROUNDS
Round 1: 30 minutes long for all cars; Top 12 drivers on single-lap speed advance.
10-minute Break
Round 2: 10 minutes long for the Top 12 from Round 1; sets positions 1-12.

FOR TRACKS 1.25 MILES LONG OR LARGER – THREE ROUNDS
Round 1: 25 minutes long for all cars; Top 24 drivers on single-lap speed advance.
5-minute Break
Round 2: 10 minutes long for Top 24 from Round 1; Top 12 drivers on single-lap speed advance; sets positions 13-24.
5-minute Break
Round 3: 5 minutes long for Top 12 from Round 2; sets positions 1-12.

With this new format, teams will have a single set of tires to use throughout qualifying and will only be allowed to adjust their cars during the breaks between the rounds.

Should a caution emerge during a qualifying round, that round will be red-flagged and the clock on that round will be stopped. If all qualifying rounds are not completed due to weather or other circumstances, the lineup will be set by the last official completed round; if no rounds are completed, the lineup will be set per the NASCAR rule book.

“We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format across our three national series,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president for competition and racing development in a statement. “This style of group qualifying has all the makings of being highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television and online.

“For the drivers and teams, we believe this new qualifying will fuel even greater competition leading into the events. Additionally, it provides our tracks, broadcasters and other key partners with a greater opportunity to develop more entertaining content for our race weekends.”

There are some exceptions to note, however. The new format will not apply for the Daytona 500, non-points Sprint Cup races (such as the Sprint Unlimited and the Sprint All-Star Race), and the Trucks’ “Mudsummer Classic” event at Eldora Speedway.

The Daytona 500 and the Eldora truck race have unique qualifying formats. Daytona has single-car qualifying to set the front row, followed by a pair of 150-mile “Duels” to determine the rest of the grid.

Eldora also has single-car qualifying but uses that to set the field for a subsequent series of qualifying heat races. After those heats, a “last chance” qualifier and a Camping World Truck Series’ champion’s provisional completes the lineup.

More to follow…

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.