Qualifying Changes Bring Excitement To Martinsville Pole Day
While most drivers aren't exactly sure how NASCAR's new qualifying format will play out at Martinsville Speedway, they are sure of one thing: it's going to add excitement and interest for fans.
"I'm excited about it. I think it's very, very cool, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun for us and the fans," said eight-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon.
Under the new two-round qualifying format to be used at Martinsville and other short tracks, all competitors will begin qualifying in a 30-minute group session. After a 10-minute break the fastest 12 from the first round will advance to a final 10-minute round with the top-12 starters determined by speeds in that final session. The rest of the field will be filled out by times from the first session.
The new qualifying format will debut at Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on March 30 and the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 29.
While this version of the qualifying format is new, Martinsville Speedway has used a similar version for its big Late Model Stock Series race for the last two seasons. And that helps truck series driver Timothy Peters have a little idea of what to expect in Kroger 250 qualifying. Peters is a two-time winner of the Late Model event and was on hand for it last fall.
"I sort of got my feet wet a little bit in the Late Model race last fall. It's a very similar procedure for that," said Peters. "We used this qualifying format to make the heat races for that (Late Model race), but now we'll have to push our trucks harder to make that final group and have a chance at the pole.
"I think there's going to be a lot of strategy that comes into play. You have to know your truck and your tires to get to the final round. Track position is critical at Martinsville; it is everything, so making that final round is huge."
Denny Hamlin, four-time Martinsville Cup winner, agreed.
"It's going to be tough because you only have a certain amount of time to get one of those fast laps and everyone is going to be fighting to get on the race track as soon as they can because the race track is better cold," said Hamlin. "I think it's (qualifying changes) going to be a game-changer for sure, and it's going to be exciting for the fans."
Qualifying for the STP 500 is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. on Friday, March 28 while Kroger 250 qualifying is at 11:40 a.m. on Saturday, March 29.
Youth 12 and under are admitted free to the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Series race on March 29 and to Pole Day on March 28. Adult tickets for the Kroger 250 are $30 in advance, $35 the day of the event.
Adult ticket prices for the STP 500 start at $37. Seats in the Bill France Tower are only $42.