NASCAR’s return to live racing after a two-month shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic will feature four Cup Series races in 11 days at two tracks, Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. But only one of those races, the originally scheduled running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24, will feature a field set by qualifying.
Because NASCAR is trying to limit the time teams and race officials have to spend at the track amid the pandemic, there will be no qualifying or practice sessions for the pair of Darlington races or the May 27 race at Charlotte. Now we know how the starting lineups for those races will be set.
NASCAR on Tuesday announced the procedures that will set the field for the Darlington race on May 17. The results of that race will help set the field for the Darlington race on May 20, and the results of the Coca-Cola 600 will help set the field for the Charlotte race on May 27.
Below are the details on how NASCAR will set the starting lineups for the three races scheduled to run without qualifying sessions.
NASCAR starting lineup for Darlington
May 17 race
The starting lineup for the first Darlington race, scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday and broadcast live on Fox, will be determined by both owner points and a random draw. The 40 cars will be split into four groups based on points, and there will be a random draw for starting position within each of those groups. From NASCAR:
- Positions 1-12 will be determined by a random draw from charter teams in those positions in team owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw among charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw among charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40 will be filled out by open, non-chartered teams in order of owner points
NASCAR did not specify when the random draws will take place.
Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass believes the “goal is to have it done by Friday.”
May 20 race
The results of the first Darlington race will set the field for the second Darlington race — kind of. The lineup for the Darlington race on May 20, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. ET and broadcast live on FS1, will feature two inversions based on the results of Sunday’s race. From NASCAR:
- Starting positions 1-20: The top 20 finishers from the May 17 event will be inverted for the start of the May 20 race
- Starting positions 21-40: The bottom 20 finishers from the May 17 event will be inverted for the start of the May 20 race; any new entries will be placed at the tail of the field
Below is a table that illustrates where each finisher in the May 17 Darlington race will start the May 20 race.
|Race 1 finish||Race 2 start|
NASCAR also announced that pit-stall selection for the May 17 Darlington race will be based on charter team owner points, then open team owner points. Pit selection for the May 20 Darlington race will be determined by the finishing order of the May 17 race.
NASCAR starting lineup for Charlotte
May 27 race
The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte will utilize same-day qualifying to set the field. The starting lineup for the May 27 race at Charlotte, though, will be set by the same procedure NASCAR will use to set the field for the second Darlington race — an inversion of positions 1-20, then positions 21-40 from the Coca-Cola 600 results.
As for pit selection at Charlotte, the Coca-Cola 600 stalls will be determined by qualifying, and the May 27 Charlotte race pit stalls will be set by the results of Coca-Cola 600.
Competition cautions at Darlington, Charlotte
NASCAR on Tuesday also announced a modified competition caution procedure for races that will take place without prior practice sessions, which include all of the events currently on the modified schedule for all three national series.
Below are the details of NASCAR’s new procedure for competition cautions, which will take place in “the early portions of the race”:
- Freezing the running order at the time of the caution period
- Granting the free pass for the first car one lap down
- No wave-around rule will be in effect for the competition caution
- Pit road opens to the top 20, then the next 20 on the following lap
- Each car will keep its position at the time of the caution, provided it beats the pace car off pit road
- The pit cycle repeats, with the top 20 then next 20 allowed to pit a second time
- Teams that do not beat the pace car off pit road will lose a lap and restart at the tail of the field; teams that pit more than twice or outside of their designated pit window will also restart at the tail of the field.
- The lineup will be reset according to the frozen running order for the restart
NASCAR is modifying this procedure “to accommodate longer pit stops, allowing teams to make more extended in-race adjustments that might normally be made during practice.”