NASCAR keeps group qualifying for 2019 Cup season despite new rules

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced Monday afternoon that group qualifying will remain in place at least to start the 2019 Cup season.

With a new rules package limiting horsepower, reducing speeds and increasing the importance of the draft, there was speculation that NASCAR might consider a single-car qualifying format like it does at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, two tracks where drafting is a major determinant.

Vice president of competition Scott Miller said NASCAR wants to keep qualifying entertaining and “we don’t believe single-car qualifying is going to get that done.”

Miller said NASCAR isn’t anticipating the draft to have a major impact on qualifying. “If you look at what’s happened on track with cars, I don’t think a 30-car draft will be quicker than two to three cars,” Miller said. “We don’t know yet, and competitors don’t know, if they trim the car out for lowest drag, is that faster than a three-car draft? There are lots of things to learn.”

Daytona and Talladega will remain a single-car qualifying format, but it’s possible other tracks could change. “We’ll adjust as necessary,” Miller said. “We won’t stick our heads in the sand.”

There will be some minor time modifications. The first session of group qualifying will be shortened by 5 minutes to 10 and there will be 5 minutes between sessions instead of 7 minutes. Miller said the windows were tightened to let broadcasters have a tighter program.

Other announcements Monday from NASCAR in a meeting with the news media at its R&D Center:

–The 2021 season is projected as the on-track rollout for the Gen 7 car. A new engine likely would follow after that, possibly in the ’22 season. John Probst, vice president for innovation and development, said the new car likely will have a composite body (which the Xfinity Series switched to over the past few seasons).

–After working as general manager of the truck series last season, Ben Kennedy will become the managing director of racing operations and international development and work on major projects across all three national series.

–The Daytona 500 will be the last race for longtime race director David Hoots, whose role in the NASCAR tower will be filled by Tim Berman and Jusan Hamilton.

–The Triple Truck Challenge, a three-race program at Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Gateway Motorsports Park, will offer truck drivers an opportunity to win $500,000 in bonus money.

–NASCAR is adding series-specific officials to its national series next year. There will be 12 in Cup, 10 in Xfinity and eight in truck.

Dustin Long contributed to this story