How big of a deal is NASCAR’s new Sprint Cup Series “Knockout” qualifying going to be at the Biggest and Baddest race track on the planet – Talladega Superspeedway – on Saturday, May 3? Just ask FOX.
The television network announced Wednesday it will air Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Aaron’s 499, moving it from FOX Sports 2 and marking the first time a non-Daytona 500 qualifying session has aired on FOX. It’s the most anticipated qualifying session of 2014. Drivers will race four wide at 200 mph – with a sense of urgency – in hopes of gaining the coveted top starting spot at NASCAR’s most mammoth track.
“This just shows the power of Talladega and what this race track is all about,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch of FOX’s plans to cover qualifying. “Our drivers have three segments to get it done in NASCAR’s new qualifying format, and there will be no time to waste. Talladega is famous for four-wide racing in all our racing events. Now fans can get ready for it in qualifying.”
“This move is a direct result of the double-digit ratings gains NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format is delivering every weekend,” said Bill Wanger, EVP of Programming, Research & Content Strategy. “We are thrilled to be able to highlight this new format on FOX, and what more exciting place to do that than Talladega Superspeedway.”
The new format pits drivers against each other in three segments. The first will feature more than 43 drivers in a 25-minute session, and after a five-minute break, the top 24 drivers will advance to the second round, which will be 10 minutes of on-track action. The fastest 12 will move to the final five-minute dash for glory, with the quickest driver in the anchor segment taking the Coors Light Pole Position.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Kyle Busch, the 2008 winner of the Aaron’s 499, who is still seeking his first pole position at Talladega Superspeedway. “I think it’s going to be some of the most fun sessions we get to have. I think you’re going to have guys that try to get in a line of 2, 3, 4 cars, and then try to chase down the pack to see how fast they can get going and what kind of laps they’ll run. Talladega is going to be a whole pack of cars trying to figure it all out, so there’s going to be some interesting moments there.”
And what does the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson think about it?
“A lot of guys paid attention in Daytona to what the Nationwide cars did (in February during the NNS qualifying), and there is a way to run a fast lap,” said the two-time Talladega winner. “It just depends on who you are trying to team up with, who’s trying to work together, and how far somebody is laying back. You know you are getting up to speed, and with a group behind you, you are pulling them along at a faster rate. Do you abort your lap and try to catch somebody else and tag on to the back of their draft? So, it is going to be extreme – you can’t predict it. It’s just going to be out of control, in a good way. There could be some wrecks because there’s going to be a lot of cars out there.”
Denny Hamlin, also seeking his first pole at Talladega, simply says, “It will be very, very interesting.”
Coors Light Pole Award qualifying, which is set for a 12:10 pm CT start, is part of a huge Saturday at Talladega, which will also hold the ARCA Racing Series’ International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 (10 am start) and the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race (2 pm start). The day concludes that evening with country music superstar Randy Houser performing the infamous Saturday Night Infield Concert on Talladega Blvd.
Ticket options? The track has many for fans of all ages, as well as hundreds of acres of FREE Camping. To find out more, call the Talladega ticket office at 1-877-Go-2-DEGA.
NASCAR returns to Talladega Superspeedway in 2014 with the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, which is set for May 2-4. The NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA Racing Series will take to the track on Saturday, May 3 while NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series machines take the green flag on Sunday, May 4. For ticket information, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.