NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying got mixed reactions by Nationwide Series drivers last week at Daytona International Speedway, ranging from “nerve-racking” to “wild” to “definitely a lot more interesting than what we normally do.”
A handful of Sprint Cup Series drivers already have been through the new format.
The rest will get their first experience Friday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway.
Phoenix will have two rounds of time trials. Every car looking for a spot in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 will have 30 minutes at the same time to post a speed. The 12 quickest will come back for another 10-minute session, with the fastest of that group earning the pole.
“It was quite a handful, a lot going on,” Kyle Busch said. “It’s just chaos at first just sitting at the end of pit road trying to figure it all out and what was going to happen and then trying to get out there in a group and get a good enough run.
“All in all, I think it was fun.”
Instead of relying solely on speed to earn a starting spot, drivers also will have to use strategy.
“Whenever you do that you’ve got people going different speeds and everything there’s always that chance of having a big wreck,” Matt Kenseth said. “Yeah, I mean, it’s a little nerve-racking.”
RAIN DAMPENS RATINGS: A 6-hour, 21-minute, 40-second rain delay in last Sunday’s Daytona 500, the longest single-day delay in NASCAR history, affected ratings for the season-opening race.
The race averaged 9.3 million viewers this year down from 16.7 million viewers last year.
Before the delay, the Daytona 500 averaged a 6.3 rating (9.3 million viewers), according to Nielsen Media Research. After the race resumed shortly after 8:30 p.m., it peaked with a 6.7 rating (10.9 million viewers) at 11 p.m.
Despite the delay, Nielsen said 69 percent of the national audience stayed to watch the resumption of the race.
ROOTING FOR THE HOME TEAM: The start of the racing season coincides with the opening of spring training, so it’s a time when drivers at Roush Fenway Racing wear two hats.
Since the race team is co-owned by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, drivers have become fans of the baseball team.
“It’s not required,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said, “but it’s highly recommended. I enjoy going up there.”
Carl Edwards grew up in Columbia, Mo., but he roots for the Red Sox instead of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“They’ve done so much for me and for my career that I’m a Red Sox fan,” he said. “There are people that will shake their head when they hear that, but that’s the truth.”