As in past years, the qualifying procedure at Daytona for the first race of the year is not about how fast you are in one lap, but how you finish in a short race. Now, NASCAR has taken that idea and made it a weekly event.
The all-new group qualifying is similar to the Formula 1 format used for years, but in a way now has the aspect of the Budweiser Duels happening on a weekly basis.
Everyone in NASCAR knows that the single-car runs that happen the week before the actual Daytona 500 do not mean much, unless you are one of the two cars that are on the front row. Everyone else immediately gets into race mode because then, they have 60 laps to make it into the biggest race of the year, or pack up and travel out to Phoenix the next week. And even then, many teams have to wait a total of 120 laps because the second race often tells who was able to make it in from the first race.
Now, some teams will have the opportunity to have three different opportunities to get the best lap they can when qualifying. It truly becomes a race to get into the race.
However, this may create a different sort of challenge as the sessions get later in the day, especially if some aspects are out of the team's control. It's well known that a colder race track is faster, and if there's cloud cover that will mean higher speeds while sunlight may mean better grip. The first round could happen when the track is overcast, meaning some of the faster speeds could happen early.
You get down to the second or even the third rounds that could mean the sun breaks, the track heats up, and the chances of getting a faster time go down. It makes it also a challenge because as teams are racing to get into the race, or better their time to get a better starting spot, it in essence creates the same drama seen on Sunday if drivers get too close, and start rubbing on each other.
Sure the field may be narrowed to 24 drivers in the second session, and then just 12 in the final round, but the risk is still there as to possibly damaging the car to where it can't be used, and the backup must be pulled out, wiping out any chance of a good starting spot.
Fans love the drama, and now teams can in essence use the qualifying rounds almost as another practice session to work on race setups, which could save teams a lot of time by not having to swap between race and qualifying setups. It's a better all-around system.
No more boring one-car on track runs, and qualifying sessions lasting over three hours to get everyone in. Now, it's simply groups, and only the fastest continue.
At least in this instance, NASCAR has a win-win situation in every aspect.