The Cup series will move to a 36-6-1 qualifying format where the fastest 36 cars will automatically make the field. The next six highest ranking cars in owner’s points that have not earned a starting spot based on speed and have entered the event by the posted entry deadline will make the field. The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent past champion. If there is no eligible past champion, a seventh car will make the field based on owner’s points.
This is a change from the guaranteed starting spots for the top 35 in owner’s points, which has been in place since 2005. Under this new format, only a maximum of seven cars will be locked into the race.
Robin Pemberton said in a press release:
This is a big win for our fans. They’ll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying.
The qualifying order will also return to a random draw. Previously, it had been determined based on practice speeds. In the event of rain, however, the field will be set per the rule book and the starting lineup will be set based on practice speeds.
Also, provisional positions in the Sprint Cup Series, the Nationwide Series, and the Camping World Truck Series will be based on the previous year’s first three races, instead of the first five as it has been in year’s previous for the Cup and N’Wide series and four in the CWTS.
In the Cup series in 2013, each team will be allowed up to four tests at tracks at which the series competes. In the Nationwide and Trucks series, there will be up to two tests per organization at tracks where those series compete. The testing limit pertains to organizations, not cars. That means that Hendrick Motorsports, for example, would have four tests, not 16 (four tests times four cars).
If the team has a Rookie of the Year candidate, they will be given one additional test. NASCAR will also open track activity early for extended practice at two additional events per series, yet to be determined.
We feel like it’s time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back to facilities that host our events. We made the decision at the end of 2008 to restrict testing, primarily for economic reasons. Now we believe it will be best for the garage and for the tracks to have some testing return in 2013.
NASCAR has also made a change to the field size of the Nationwide Series. The maximum starting field has been reduced to 40 from 43 in that series because NASCAR wants to strengthen the ownership base and create a greater sense of urgency to make races.
The Sprint Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series fields remain unchanged.