NASCAR’s upcoming visit to Talladega Superspeedway will also mark the first time that the knockout-style qualifying format has been used for a restrictor plate track.
At 2.66 miles in length, Talladega comes in well above the 1.25-mile track length line of demarcation. Thus, competitors will go through the three-round version of the format.
Drivers will have to use the draft at 200+ miles per hour like they do in the races, so they can post times fast enough to keep them advancing through the qualifying rounds.
And that means we’ll be for a much different qualifying show than what we’ve seen so far this season.
“As you take it to the superspeedways, it could be very unique for the fact that everyone’s going to try to get those huge runs from the back of the pack,” Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick said in a release.
“So, you’re going to have a lot of different agendas. The timing of when you make your runs is going to be a little bit different.
“There are going to be some interesting moments, I would say, as we go through qualifying, but I think it’s going to be exciting compared to what we’re used to.”
Harvick, who has won multiple times on restrictor plate tracks, believes that the approach to how he’ll handle Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 will come down to how he fares in the qualifying session on Saturday.
“A lot of these tracks, if you can qualify decent and race up front with the current rules package, I think it’s better to stay up front and try to keep yourself there throughout the day,” he said. “Obviously, if you don’t qualify well, you go with the opposite strategy.
“For us, having a couple of wins in the bank, I think you race as hard as you can all day to try and keep yourself up front and have a complete day of hopefully keeping the car rolling when it’s time to be around at the end.”
Regardless of where he qualifies, Harvick is hopeful that he’ll have more speed in his No. 4 SHR Chevrolet than what he felt he had in it during Daytona Speedweeks in February.
Harvick rose from 38th on the Daytona 500 grid to finish 13th, but he says that was more to do with pit strategy and good stops.
“I know the guys were working on finding some speed and making the cars a little better before we headed off to Talladega,” he added. “It’s a constant progression. I felt like we had a little bit of a lack of speed but I think, by the time we get to Talladega, we will have found that.
“Hopefully, that will allow us to be a little bit better than we were at Daytona.”