It has been three seasons since the NASCAR Cup Series season saw what it is about to see throughout the entirety of the 36-race 2022 campaign.
When NASCAR returned from the unexpected 10-week hiatus caused by COVID-19-related restrictions back in mid-May 2020, two things that did not return, both of which had been present for the first four Cup Series races of the year, were practice and qualifying sessions.
The final 32 races of the 2020 season saw just one qualifying session, with that coming in late May for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
NASCAR started off by using random draws (drivers grouped based on point standings) to set the starting lineups before moving to a starting lineup formula later in the year.
This same formula was utilized throughout the 2021 season.
Qualifying sessions did return, but only for select races.
- Daytona 500 (Daytona International Speedway)
- Circuit of the Americas
- Coca-Cola 600 (Charlotte Motor Speedway)
- Nashville Superspeedway
- Road America
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course
- Phoenix Raceway
Heat races were slated to set the starting lineup for the inaugural Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race, but they ended up being rained out.
But in 2022, for the first time since 2019, practice and qualifying sessions are back on a full-time basis.
NASCAR revealed the practice and qualifying formats for the 2022 season shortly after the 2021 season ended back in November, announcing different formats for the regular oval races, the superspeedway oval races, the road course races, and the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race.
Take a look at all of the details below.
The formats for the Xfinity Series and Truck Series were also revealed.
Daytona International Speedway hosted the 2022 season openers for the Truck Series, the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series last weekend, and qualifying took place, just like it did last year (though the Xfinity Series qualifying session was rained out in 2021). So there was really no significant change for this particular weekend.
But this weekend, qualifying is officially back.
Auto Club Speedway, which was wiped off the 2021 calendar altogether as a result of COVID-19-related restrictions, is scheduled to host both an Xfinity Series race (Saturday, February 26) and a Cup Series race (Sunday, February 27), and qualifying is set to take place for both events, beginning a trend that hopefully lasts an entire season for the first time in three years. The Truck Series is set to return to action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 4.