Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NASCAR Abolishes Top-35 Rule For 2013

NASCAR made it official today, confirming that the “Top 35” qualifying system will be abolished next season, in favor of a new, “36-6-1 format” which guarantees starting spots to the fastest 36 cars in qualifying, regardless of their standing in points.  

Beginning next season, the fastest 36 cars will make the race on speed, with the next six highest ranking cars in owners’ points earning provisional spots at the tail of the field. The final starting position will be awarded to the most recent eligible past champion, completing the field of 43. If there is no eligible past champion driver, a seventh car will make the field based upon owners' points.  

Qualifying order for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will once again be determined by a random draw, rather than practice speeds. However, if qualifying is canceled due to rain, the starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds.

Provisional positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series’ will be based upon the previous year's owner points for the first three races of the season, instead of the first five races, as has been the case in recent years.  

In a related story, the sanctioning body has reduced the number of starters for NASCAR Nationwide Series races from 43 to 40, beginning in 2013. The move was made “in an effort to strengthen the ownership base and create a sense of urgency among teams to make races.” Sprint Cup Series fields will remain at 43 cars,  while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will remain unchanged at 36.

NASCAR also confirmed that it will allow up to four tests per Sprint Cup Series organization next season, at tracks on which the series competes. In recent years, teams have only been allowed to test at tracks that do not hold NASCAR national series events. Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will be allowed two tests per organization at tracks where those series compete in 2013. Team’s campaigning an official Sunoco Rookie of Year candidate will receive an additional test.


  1. This is one of the best rule changes they have made in NASCAR in years! Finally, a little competition! Thanks for the update, Dave!

  2. Anonymous1:29 PM

    This is the greatest news came from NASCAR. I applaud NASCAR making these changes.

  3. Tyler N1:41 PM

    I like everything except going back to the random draw. I like the current system.

  4. Anonymous2:45 PM

    Why oh freaking why, are we going back to pills? Qualifying order based on practice speed almost always guaranteed suspense as you KNEW the next guy was faster during practice.

  5. Manitoba_jay7:20 PM

    36+7 hmmmm.almost like NASCAR has been listening to Sirius speedway for the last 8 or so years.Somewhere in Charlotte a big boy did a back flip today and well earned i must say.Finally the duels will mean something...let me know the date so i can book it off.

  6. I'm not sure how I feel.

    NASCAR does something to benefit the start and park teams, but it comes at the expense of the start-up teams.

  7. muskrat jon7:44 PM

    Hey, please tell me that it's not April 1st. This is the best news in a long time, now maybe all teams will go for fast qualifying rather than play with racevset-ups, as a side benifit it might reduce the number of start and park teams

  8. Good news. I like the fact that the guys struggling to make have a real shot now. I also like the additional test for a R.O.Y contender. That move alone may encourage teams to bring in new blood.

  9. I have to say, without a limitation on the number of provisionals a team can use, is this really any different than what we have now with the top 35 rule?

    Yes, there is an outside chance that one of the stars of the sport won't make a race under these new rules, but I'm willing to bet substantial money against that happening.

    I'm pretty sure that the reason we got the top 35 rule in the first place because of Kennseth's poor qualifying ability back in '03(?) when he missed a race due to poor qualifying and having run out of provisionals.

  10. Where do people think this change will open up opportunity for guys presently struggling or encourage teams to bring in new blood? There is NO chance of reducing the number of start-and-park cars because there's realistically no money for anyone outside the two or three money-guy monster-teams. Moreover, qualifying is NOT supposed to be a contest to begin with; it's supposed to determine where - NOT whether - you start.

  11. Anonymous7:52 PM

    Not going to change much. No one has been "bumped" from a 36th or better qualifying position since 2009. The only change is that any team that runs part-time will HAVE to qualify 36th or better, because without owners points they have nothing to fall back on. Currently, those teams only have to beat "x" number of non T35 cars (x being how many teams over 43 attempt the race).

    The only positive is it might cut down on Start&Park early in the season, as having points will get you in no matter how bad you qualify, and there's no "limit" on provisionals. So those teams will want to build up a cushion. But later in the season, the full-time Start and Park guys will have their points, so they'll go back to collecting at NASCAR's pay window.

    You want to see this rule change in a hurry? Wait for the Impound, Restrictor plate races. Teams wanting to truly race will qualify on race setups, while the Start-and-Park and part-time teams all run pure qualifying setups. That happened in 2007, where the top 11 cars were ALL outside the T35 in points, so the 9th place qualifier was sent home. Imagine if a bunch of Chase drivers are at the bottom when Talladega rolls around, and there's only room for 6 + 1 on points. If as few as 8 chasers qualify below 36th, at least one goes home. I don't see NASCAR allowing that to happen. Or I suppose the teams could "buy" a ride, since the driver would still get points.