NASCAR is considering a return to single-car qualifying at intermediate-length tracks as issues caused by its latest cars continue to dog the sessions.
The high-downforce, lower-horsepower vehicles were meant to improve racing, but also place more importance on drafting, which has led to traffic jams near the end of the qualifying sessions as drivers try to avoid hitting the track alone.
The rules have already been tweaked once this season after no cars completed a lap during the final session at Auto Club Speedway, because they waited too late to leave pit lane. Then Clint Bowyer was knocked out of qualifying this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway when he went to follow Ryan Newman on the track, but got stuck in the center of pit road when Newman tried to pull over and park again in a move that Bowyer felt was against the rules against clogging the lane. Bowyer ended up leading the pack onto the track and finished 25th, one spot short of moving on to the next round. He later argued that Newman should’ve been penalized and eliminated, instead.
NASCAR’s top competition official, Steve O’Donnell, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday that the problems are unfortunate for the fans and that all options are on the table.
“The optics of what’s taking place with the teams is not tenable for us with the fans, so we’re going to look at every option, including the possibility of going to single-car qualifying,” O’Donnell said.
NASCAR has a few weeks to come up with a new plan, because the next event where the issue may be a factor isn’t until May 11 at Kansas Motor Speedway.
Despite the qualifying controversy in Texas, Bowyer finished the 500-mile race in second behind Denny Hamlin.