NASCAR to allow cooling units during qualifying

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 11, 2014 

NASCAR on Tuesday banned the use of cool-down laps during its new knockout qualifying procedures – a practice which has raised safety concerns among some participants.

During the two- or three-round qualifying format, drivers have been running around the bottom of the track after making qualifying runs to help cool the cars’ engines. The move created a vast disparity on the track in speeds between cars running at full speed and those trying to cool engines.

After Friday’s qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, driver Brian Vickers called the practice “the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done in a race car.”

Teams instead will be allowed to hook up cooling units to their engines through hood flaps during the qualifying rounds.

“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development, said in a statement.

“Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying.”

Pemberton also said NASCAR would continue to evaluate the qualifying rules.

With the use of cooling units, the hood must remain closed and teams will not be allowed to plug in the generator to cool fluids. Two crew members, instead of one, will be allowed over the wall.

The changes will take effect this week for Nationwide and Sprint Cup series races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

During the offseason, NASCAR changed from single-car runs to a knockout-style qualifying format, which features groups of cars competing in two or three sessions – depending upon track size – to set race lineups.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

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