NASCAR tweaks group qualifying at Daytona for Xfinity, Camping World Truck series

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In the wake of a sometimes disastrous debut Sunday for Daytona 500 group qualifying, NASCAR is tweaking the rules for the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.

The field will be split into four groups for the first round, and the time of the session will be cut from five minutes to two minutes, 30 seconds. The fastest 24 cars will advance to the second round with those 12 fastest reaching the final session.

Instead of backing diagonally out of their pit stalls to begin the sessions, teams will be ordered single file in the pits by NASCAR. A random draw will determine the order for the first round, and speeds will set the second-round order.

“We continue to work in collaboration with the industry to implement the most exciting and competitive qualifying format, especially as it relates to superspeedways,” NASCAR senior vice president Steve O’Donnell said in a release. “As a result we have made a few adjustments to the format for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series events later this week at Daytona. We will continue to review the qualifying format for future superspeedway events.

Several Sprint Cup veterans complained after the introduction of Daytona 500 group qualifying Sunday resulted in a multicar crash in the first round and several drivers failing to record speeds. Drivers also complained about the seeming of absurdity of sitting in the pits until the end of a 5-minute clock to begin a lap.

The changes announced Wednesday afternoon apply only to Daytona for the Xfinity and Truck Series.

The next restrictor-plate qualifying session for Sprint Cup will be in May at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR hasn’t determined the format and probably won’t release details for at least another month while soliciting feedback and mulling options.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is racing in the Xfinity and Cup events this weekend at Daytona, approved of the changes.

“I’m glad that they’re open to making moves, making changes and trying to learn from those changes,” he said. “The last segment from qualifying (Sunday) I thought was really exciting.

“We definitely want to have something exciting, and we went away from single-car runs for several different reasons. I understand we more than likely will never go back to single-car runs. If that’s the case, we’ll be proactive. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works.”