HomeSportsNascarNASCAR: Here’s What the Starting Formula Used to Be

NASCAR: Here’s What the Starting Formula Used to Be

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This weekend’s race lineup in the Atlanta Motor Speedway looked a little different than a typical NASCAR event. Friday’s inclement weather forced NASCAR officials to postpone the Fr8 208 Truck Series race. Because of this, both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series races headlined day two of the event.

Now, this didn’t dampen the fun for NASCAR fans, as they were still able to catch all the action. However, it did slightly change the layout of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Cup Series race. Normally, drivers are positioned in the race by their times in qualifying laps. Because there wasn’t time for qualifiers on Saturday, NASCAR instead brought out the formula created in response to COVID-19 restrictions.

During the pandemic, NASCAR abandoned both practice and qualifying sessions, using competition-based performance metrics in their place. The formula used to create the starting lineup for this weekend’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 looks like this:

  • Rank in owner standings: 35%
  • Finish in previous race (driver): 25%
  • Finish in previous race (owner): 25%
    • For full-time drivers, the above categories are combined into one category with a weight of 50%
  • Rank of driver’s fastest lap in previous race: 15%

NASCAR Hasn’t Always Used a Formula for Starting Lineups

Though somewhat unorthodox, the above formula creates the fairest lineup possible in absence of qualifying sessions. That said, “fair” wasn’t always the top priority when assigning positions under abnormal circumstances. In fact, it used to be almost completely random!

After a 10-week hiatus caused by pandemic restrictions, NASCAR drivers returned to the track. However, some adjustments were necessary. When first faced with the need for an alternative to qualifying sessions, NASCAR set starting lineups by grouping drivers based on point standings and making random draws.

The next year, when NASCAR officials realized that COVID-19 restrictions weren’t going away, they adopted a more efficient solution in the current formula. And though the formula is only used to form the starting lineup for races in the event of rain delays and other unusual situations, it’s still used every week.

Now, however, it’s used to determine the order for the qualifying sessions rather than the starting lineup. And instead of the driver with the lowest number going out first, the driver with the highest number goes first in the qualifiers, followed by the next highest and so on.