NASCAR drops Sprint Cup top 35 qualifying rule, opens up testing

NASCAR has dropped the qualifying rule which guaranteed starting spots for the top 35 drivers in the owners' points as part of wider competition changes for 2013

NASCAR drops Sprint Cup top 35 qualifying rule, opens up testing

The top-35 rule came into effect in 2005 and applied to points-paying events.

In its stead, a new qualifying system will be introduced from the start of next season in which speed will be prevailing factor.

NASCAR will use a 36-6-1 format in which the fastest 36 cars make the race on speed.

The next six spots will then go to those best placed in the owners' standings but not already qualified.

The final grid spot will be available for the most recent eligible past champion. If no previous champions are entered or eligible, a maximum of seven cars will qualify based on their ranking in the owners' points.

The order in which cars complete their qualifying runs will once again be set by a draw, and if qualifying is cancelled the field will be set based on practice speeds.

The unique qualifying procedure for the season-opening Daytona 500 will be affected by the scrapping of the top-35 rule, with the Duels now taking a bigger role in setting the grid due to the elimination of guaranteed spots.

Alongside the qualifying changes, NASCAR also announced that testing will be opened up to once again include tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. Testing at current circuits was banned in 2009.

"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," said NASCAR's Robin Pemberton.

"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."

Additional changes were also announced for the Nationwide and Truck Series, including the downsizing of the field for the second-tier series from 43 to 40 cars.

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