NASCAR is ditching the modified random draw as a way it sets starting lineups for 13 of the final 14 Cup Series races of the 2020 season.
The sanctioning body announced Thursday that a formula including a driver’s most recent finish, his points position and the rank of his fastest lap in the previous race would be used to determine a race’s starting lineup in the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series. The finish will account for 50 percent, the points position will account for 35 percent and the fastest lap will account for 15 percent.
The change goes into effect at Daytona next weekend. If it was in effect for Saturday’s race at Michigan, New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski’s cumulative total would be 1.35 for his first-place finish (0.5), his second-place standing in the points (0.7) and if he ran the fastest lap (0.15). If no driver had a lower total than Keselowski, he would start first at Michigan on Saturday.
Yeah, it’s not going to be the most simple way of determining who starts where in a Cup Series race. But it provides for more variance than the modified random draw did. Drivers in the top 12 of the points standings were guaranteed to start in the top 12. Now they must have a decent finish in the previous race to start near the front of the field.
The only Cup Series race where the format won’t be used is at Dover on Aug. 23. That race lineup will be determined by a top-half invert from the race the day before.
The relatively complicated way to set the field for races comes after NASCAR previously said that it wouldn’t hold qualifying ahead of races for the rest of the season. It’s a decision that’s designed to limit the amount of time that teams have to spend at the track and help teams from having to bring a backup car with them on race weekends.
But it also would seem feasible for NASCAR to hold a 30-minute qualifying session shortly before each race, even if teams didn’t have a backup car available. If a team was worried about crashing its primary car in qualifying a driver simply wouldn’t have to push the limits in qualifying. A qualifying session would give teams and drivers a chance to briefly shake down their cars ahead of races and add a little pre-race intrigue.
Choose rule implemented immediately
The leader will no longer be the only driver with lane choice on a restart at most races the rest of the season.
NASCAR said that drivers will be able to choose their own restart lanes at all tracks going forward except road courses and Daytona and Talladega. That means that a driver exiting the pits in second place during a caution flag will have the option of restarting alongside the leader on the front row or behind the leader in the second row in the preferred groove and so on until every driver picks which groove he wants to restart in.
July’s All-Star Race served as an experiment for the rule. While some drivers elected to start further back than they normally would to be in the preferred outside groove at Bristol, there wasn’t much deviation from the standard odd-numbered positions on the inside and even-numbered positions on the outside format.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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