NASCAR qualifying changes see crews allowed, road course shift

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NASCAR’s big qualifying overhaul for 2014 – one of many changes the sanctioning body is making ahead of the season – will have a slight alteration from the original plans as part of the first round of news revealed at today’s NASCAR Media Day in Daytona.

Road course qualifying was originally going to be run the same as tracks that are 1.25 miles or more in length, which is a three-step process: an opening 25-minute segment for all cars, a 10-minute segment for the fastest 24 vehicles, and a final five-minute segment for the fastest 12 drivers.

That changed Thursday to shift to the format used by tracks less than 1.25 miles. So qualifying at Sonoma and Watkins Glen will now feature a 30-minute first round and a 10-minute second round comprised of the fastest 12 cars with a 10-minute break in between. The long lap length at the two road courses necessitated the break.

Perhaps more interestingly, crewmembers will now be allowed over the wall to make adjustments during the session. One will be allowed over the wall while cars are on track to make adjustments, and up to three can in any of the breaks.

It’s a move that could see as much of a race in the pit lane to see how fast any adjustments are made, as much as there is on track.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

Force’s daughter, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, suffered a hard wreck at Pomona, but recovered in time to race this weekend in Phoenix.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski