More than 450 drivers at the NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires attend the Thursday drivers meeting.

Returning to a singular championships event for 2018, the National Auto Sport Association Championships presented by Toyo Tires also will debut a new qualifying format at Circuit of The Americas this weekend.

Originally the Championships format started with practice, qualifying and a qualifying race on Friday followed by practice and a qualifying race on Saturday. The combined results of those two races determined your starting position for the Championships race on Sunday. If a racer did poorly in the first qualifying race on Friday, or registered just a few horsepower too high on the dyno, it greatly diminished his or her starting position for the Championship race on Sunday regardless of how well he or she performed in Saturday’s qualifying race. As a result, some drivers elected to sit out the second qualifying race to alleviate wear and tear on the car.

“It was racing every day. It was high pressure,” said NASA Vice President Jeremy Croiset. “You were at a disadvantage if you didn’t have a crew, and your car had to be in tip-top shape every session all weekend long.”

Based on feedback from NASA competitors, the new format will feature two time-based qualifying sessions on Friday. The best time from any of the qualifying sessions on Friday determines your grid position for the qualifying race on Saturday. Then your finishing position in the qualifying race determines your grid position for the main Championship race. The new format gives racers two opportunities to set a fast lap to improve their starting position for Saturday’s qualifying race, rather than one.

“The only things you have to worry about are your two qualifying sessions on Friday, your qualifying race on Saturday and your main race on Sunday,” Croiset said. “That, to me, is far more manageable than having to qualify, and run a qualifying race Friday and Saturday, and have all of that come together to get a good starting position for the Sunday race. We felt it would be a more enjoyable format for our competitors, because overall, that’s what this is. Yes, it’s the NASA Championships, but Roger Penske is not calling you Monday morning. Everybody is doing this for fun, so if we make it more fun, hopefully more people will take part in the NASA Championships.”

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