Mixed reactions to the new qualifying format.
Daytona Beach, Fla. – The Nationwide Series became the first NASCAR series to try out the new group qualification procedures. In accordance with the new procedures, three rounds of knock-out type qualifications will be staged with round one open to all cars/trucks and the fastest 24 will advance to a 10-minute round with a final chapter of five minutes for the fastest 12. The results of the last round will determine positions one through 12 in the starting order.
At the Daytona International Speedway on Friday afternoon, 48 Nationwide cars took to the tri-oval with most teams going out together. Almost immediately, cars were running two abreast and in a few instances, three abreast.
Rain stopped the first session briefly after 19 minutes with young Dylan Kwasniewski leading the way at 192.078 miles per hour. Teammates Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick were only slightly slower.
For the 18-year old driver, he became the first rookie to claim a pole in his Nationwide Series debut since Scott Speed did it at Las Vegas in 2009 and the first rookie to do so at Daytona since NASCAR great Rusty Wallace did it in 1986. The top three drove Chevrolets for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Said Kwasniewski, who drove the Rockstar/FOE Chevrolet, “It is surreal to be here after winning the pole. For my first time at Daytona and getting a pole, it is an unexplainable feeling. It all happened because of Danica (Patrick) and Kyle Larson, as they did a fantastic job of leading us through the pack and getting us clean through there. I just had to hang onto the back.”
Regarding the new procedures, the teenager added, “I liked it a lot and made for a lot of excitement for the fans and me. It was a little dicey, and I didn’t know what to expect. I had great teammates leading the way and luckily, we had a good lap. When I came up to a sea of cars, I had no idea how we were going to get through, but Danica picked her way through it and got us into the right position. We stuck together as a team.”
Patrick commented, “It is all about timing and having that perfect distance, but once they start moving around as a group that slows you down, so your timing gets off base. It worked out and we are one-two-three.”
Asked for comments on the new procedures, Patrick said, “I think there will be sometimes when it will be total disaster, particularly on short tracks. Places like Bristol, Martinsville and even Phoenix will present a really big challenge. At some places, you will find drivers and even spotters mad at each other. If NASCAR was looking at making it interesting for the fans, they have done it.”
Fourth through sixth behind the front three were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler and Matt Kenseth.
Said Sadler, “It was pretty wild out there, and it was a lot hairier than I thought it would be. I couldn’t see anything; I just went wherever Kyle (Busch) went. We tried to get a clean lap, and I think we passed 20 cars on our first lap out. It was pretty cool to see how fast our JGR Toyota’s are.”
Jamie Dick, Jeff Green, Johnny Sauter and David Starr rounded out the top-10 fastest qualifiers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. timed 16th one spot ahead of Brad Keselowski