In a move aimed toward enhancing the fan experience, NASCAR has announced a new group qualifying format for its three national series that is more compelling, more closely emulates actual on-track competition and underlines the sport's on-going commitment to innovation.

Under the new procedure, at tracks measuring 1.25 miles in length or less and both road course events, including this weekend's Toyota/Save Mart 350, qualifying will consist of two elimination rounds that will determine the starting grid. This weekend Cup drivers will hit the track for two practice sessions on Great Clips Fast Friday followed by Lean1 Pole Day qualifying on Saturday.

The new qualifying format will be structured as follows: 

  • The first qualifying elimination round will be 30 minutes in duration and includes all cars. The 12 cars that post the fastest single lap will advance to the final round. Top lap speeds will be reset between each round.
  • The remaining cars will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.
  • There will be a 10-minute break between the two qualifying rounds.
  • The final qualifying round will be 10 minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time will determine positions 1 through 12 in descending order. The fastest driver in the final round will earn the pole position for the race.

"There is a lot for our fans to like about the new format - suspense, strategy and plenty of action on the track.  This will be a terrific addition to the overall storyline of the weekend," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway.