Knockout qualifying is a step in the right direction for NASCAR

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Depending on the track, NASCAR’s former single-car qualifying format could be a real yawner. NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format for its top three national series won’t be.

For those of us that follow Formula One and the IndyCar Series, we’ve long been used to the knockout style. F1’s had a three-round format since the 2006 season, while IndyCar’s had their own since 2008.

To those NASCAR fans that aren’t as familiar with this form of qualifying, we say to them: You’re gonna have fun with this. And you can look forward to drama through both pure speed and plenty of strategy.

The best laps from each round get erased after each session, which means drivers will be forced to stay up on the wheel throughout the proceedings.

Meanwhile, their crew chiefs will have lots to think about, from when they’ll want to have their driver lay down a fast one (immediately or after they see how a few of their rivals fare) to how they’re gonna make it all work on a single set of tires.

But as NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton (a former crew chief himself) said on Wednesday, that will lead to multiple situations they can take advantage of.

“I think as we move through the season, it will take on a life of its own at different places where they will have different strategies, whether it’s working on the race set-ups, or if they want to be aggressive in one round or kind of lay-up in the other round, saving tires to just squeak into the final round and have the best tires,” he said.

With a limited number of adjustments only permitted during short breaks between the qualifying rounds, those crew chiefs must make the right calls. And if their drivers make a mistake and damage the car, crews won’t have the ability to make repairs on pit road or in the garage.

It’s a different beast for sure, and it will be fascinating to see how the teams figure out the new format in the initial race weekends following the Daytona 500 in March – Phoenix, Las Vegas, Bristol, Fontana, and Martinsville.

As for fans, they will get to taste both flavors of the format in March: A two-round version on the shorter tracks (One-mile Phoenix, and the half-miles of Bristol and Martinsville) and a three-round version at the bigger tracks (1.5-mile Las Vegas and two-mile Fontana).

Either way, the Top 12 left standing by the final round will get to settle the pole, as well as the first six rows of the starting grid, among themselves.

The fastest driver gets to start P1 at the green flag on race day, like always. The road to getting there will just be a little different.

And that road won’t be a boring one.

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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