Pemberton: NASCAR to wait-and-see if qualifying changes are merited

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Although a number of Sprint Cup drivers were quite vocal Friday about NASCAR’s new “knockout” qualifying system, particularly when their cars enter pit road and how to keep their motors cool when not making qualifying laps, NASCAR will likely keep the format as is for the time being.

“We’re going to sit for a while, field all the questions and see what happens,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development, said Saturday morning according to NASCAR.com. “It’s a very small snapshot of qualifying so far.”

Pemberton said he and other officials have spoken with a number of drivers who have expressed concern about the new system, which utilized the three-segment system for non-restrictor plate tracks larger than 1.25 miles for the first time Friday.

“We’re listening,” he said. “We told them it’s too early to tell (if tweaks are necessary).

“Other than the cars running around on the bottom and you had one or two complain that it was a close call … again, we’re listening to them, but we want to take a better snapshot of it.”

Pemberton said the sanctioning body will continue to monitor the situation and then determine if changes are necessary.

“Everybody’s working through this stuff,” Pemberton said. “There’s a lot that’s new, new to our officials, new to the race teams. Anytime there is a question, officials are told to call the tower (for confirmation).”

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Malcolm Stewart sidelined by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.