When NASCAR fans hear the infamous "Gentlemen, start your engines" kick off to upcoming races, they can expect to see changes on the track, as NASCAR recently changed some of its rules to improve the performance of the racers and make the fields smaller.
NASCAR, in a move that has been expected for months, recently announced that it will eliminate the top-35 rule and go back to the previous format that was used to set fields before the most recent rules were implemented in 2005.
The elimination of the top-35 rule was just one of several changes that were announced by NASCAR officials, including decreasing the Nationwide Series fields from 43 cars to 40 by the beginning of 2013.
"This is a big win for our fans," said NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. "They'll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying."
According to the new rules, there will be no limit to the number of provisionals, and Pemberton said that he and officials always felt like there was the need for some type of opportunity for a racer to get back a bad day and points are something to make the field.
At the upcoming Daytona 500, NASCAR will set the field as it has in race before the top-35 rule was implemented. Officials stated that qualifying speeds will determine the front row before the 150-mile qualifying races set the majority of the spots with the remainder of the field set by qualifying speed and provisionals.
Pemberton said that the final details of the changes haven't been completely worked out yet, but it all comes down to the fastest cars and the ones that perform in the qualifying races that will set the 500 lineup.
"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," Pemberton said. "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."
Other changes that have been implemented by NASCAR include the qualifying order for the Sprint Cup Series being based on a random drawing instead of practice speeds and last year's owner points being used to set provisionals in race fields for the first three races.
NASCAR also recently announced an extension with Fox-TV that will allow the motorsport to continue being featured on the network until 2022.