With only five races left in the 2012 season some eyes have already turned to the 2013 season. NASCAR announced on Tuesday several competition changes that will take effect starting with the Daytona 500 in February.
The biggest change will be to how the Sprint Cup Series 43-car field is set for each race. The Top 35 rule that has been in place since 2005 guaranteed the top 35 cars in owners' points would make the race no matter what their qualifying speed was. This rule is now gone and NASCAR has decided to go with a provisional system similar to what was used prior to 2005.
Under the new system the 36 fastest cars will make the race on speed each week and then the next six cars in owners points will take positions 37-42. If there is a past champion, the 43rd spot will go to them, if not the 43rd spot will be filled by the seventh car in owners points. In the new system there is no limit to how many provisionals one driver or team can use per season.
"There is a little insurance policy in there with six provisionals and a champion's provisional," NASCAR's vice president for competition Robin Pemberton said. "We feel that will serve us well, now as in the past. … We felt like this new format would do a better job as it relates to Cup."
The provisionals will be given out based on 2012 owners points for only the first three races of the season now instead of the first five.
Another change is that the Sprint Cup Series qualifying order will return to a random draw instead of being decided by practice speeds. In the event of a rain out for the qualifying session, the race field would be set by practice speeds and then the owners points provisionals.
In another change NASCAR has lifted its ban on testing and will now allow Sprint Cup organizations to test at four competition tracks per year instead of not being able to test at any unless it was a Goodyear tire test. That was the policy created in 2008 because of economic reasons. Nationwide and Camping World Truck teams will be allowed two tests at sanctioned tracks and rookie drivers will be allotted one additional test.
In big news for the Nationwide Series, the starting grid will be cut to 40 cars from the current 43 cars. Several races this season have not had enough cars entered to fill all 43 spots.
"We feel like to strengthen our ownership base, it's best served for us to reduce that field to 40 cars," Pemberton said. "And we feel that gives us the opportunity to put what we feel is a better quality field of cars in play on those Nationwide events. … We think it's something that will enhance the Nationwide events."
The Sprint Cup field will stay at 43 cars and the Trucks will still be 36.
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