Here’s what Sprint Cup drivers learned in their first experience Friday with “knockout” qualifying:
If NASCAR doesn’t find an alternative to cars moseying around the track to cool engines, “knockout” might take on a whole different meaning.
“When someone is going 100 miles (per hour) slower, closing speed is really scary,” said Joey Logano, who qualified second for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500. “I think they have to do something about that.”
Logano will share the front row with Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who won the first pole under this format. Keselowski ran a best speed of 139.384 mph. Keselowski went out early in the initial 30-minute session that narrowed the pole competition to a dozen drivers.
“It’s a lot more nerve-wracking,” Keselowski said of the new format. “As a rule, if it’s more nerve-wracking for drivers, a lot more fun for fans. I like it because it fits my style.”
Logano was speaking for many concerning the slower traffic in qualifying. He noted the teams already have cool-down units that could be used along pit road and avoid the slow-traffic fanning process teams tried Friday.
However, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president for competition, said they won’t immediately tweak the rules and that some drivers argue against those cool-down units in qualifying.
“Running around untaped really didn’t cool the engines down,” Pemberton said, adding that NASCAR would prefer not to give teams latitude to raise hoods during qualifying. That would be necessary with the current cool-down technology.
Pemberton said NASCAR understands this format could be a work-in-progress.
“We’ve got a really good dialogue with our competitors,” Pemberton said. “We have open conversations all the time. It’s our job to weigh” all the factors.
While some drivers anticipated the slow-go fanning laps, others were taken aback.
“I didn’t know everybody would coast and try to cool their engines. It got kind of sketchy,” said Kyle Larson, who qualified eighth.
Added Jamie McMurray, who qualified third, “NASCAR has to look at letting us cool the engines down on pit road. It’s hard to tell if someone is coming in Turn 1. … I’m sure everyone would have the same opinion as me.”
Some drivers thought Friday’s rules interpretation ran counter to putting on the best show.
“If they’d let you cool the engines down, you could go full grille tape,” McMurray said.
“More excitement, more hot laps,” Logano said.
The Profit on CNBC 500
Friday qualifying/Sunday lineup
At Phoenix International Raceway
|5||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||138.344|
|21||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||137.473|
|27||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevrolet||136.903|
|Failed to qualify|