NASCAR will revamp rules next year for pole qualifying and testing. Starting with the race at Phoenix International Raceway on March 3, the fastest 36 speeds from pole qualifying will be locked into the starting lineup. The other seven spots will go to a former series champion and the highest-ranked drivers in the standings.
The sanctioning body also will go back to a blind drawing to determine the qualifying order. Currently, the top 35 teams in the standings have automatic provisional exemptions into the starting lineup, while the final eight spots go to the fastest qualifiers among teams not in the top 35.
In addition to shaking up the way the fields are determined, NASCAR also will allow each organization to test four times at tracks of their choice. Multi-car teams will be limited to four tests, just like a single-car operation. The only advantage is a multi-car organization is allowed to send as many teams as they want to a single test.
Testing currently is prohibited at any track that plays host to a NASCAR event. Most teams agree testing is important, but bigger teams have a big advantage because they could spread their dates out among their teams.
“When you talk to the big teams there is a far different opinion than that of the smaller teams,” Jimmie Johnson said. “So, I think it’s a decent compromise. It’s going to be interesting with one team at a track with four drivers and how you go about testing who drives, who tests, and who goes where; put a couple of guys in on a weekend on a test date and how that works out. It’s something different for us to play with.”
GORDON STICKING AROUND: With AARP extending its contract through the 2014 season with Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon is a long way from retiring.
He said any thoughts of stepping away from his No. 24 Chevrolet would be centered on sponsorship, so AARP made sure he will drive for another two years.
“At this point in my career, I don’t take it year-to-year; I take it based on where we’re at with sponsorship,” Gordon said. “I look out and plan OK, if sponsors are saying we want to do a three-year deal or two-year deal or five-year deal we’ll sit down and have these conversations and talk about if where they are at is where I’m at.
“I feel good. Things are going well. We’re competitive. I’m as good back-wise and health-wise as I’ve been in a long time, so there is no reason for me to think any different than saying yes to their offer of going through 2014 right now.”
Gordon, 41, qualified for this year’s Chase for the Championship to renew his determination to win a fifth championship.