NASCAR introduces new group qualifying procedures today at Phoenix

Leave a comment

NASCAR will debut its new group qualifying procedures today at Phoenix International Raceway.

Somewhat influenced by Formula One’s qualifying procedures, the new Sprint Cup Coors Light Qualifying begins at 6:30 pm ET at PIR.

Unofficially known as “the pack is back” (and no, that’s not a reference to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers), the new procedures replace NASCAR’s former one car at a time qualifying. Last Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 was the last time solo one-car qualifying will be seen for a Cup race.

The new qualifying system may be a bit confusing to fans at first, but they should quickly get the hang of it.

Essentially, tracks that are less than 1.25 miles, such as Phoenix, Bristol, Martinsville, New Hampshire and Richmond, will see two qualifying rounds. The first will last 30 minutes, with all cars expected to be on the track.

The fastest 12 drivers in the first round will then move to a 10-minute second round, which will determine the pole sitter. The other cars will be placed on the starting grid based upon their best single qualifying lap during either the first or second sessions.

At tracks longer than 1.25 miles, such as next week’s race host, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there will be three rounds of qualifying.

The first round will feature all entries and will take 25 minutes.

The 10-minute second round will be the 24 fastest from the first round.

The third and final round will have the 12 fastest from the second round vying for No. 1 qualifier over a brief five-minute session.

The same qualifying procedures will also be used for both the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.