NASCAR: What is the ‘formula’ and why is it used?

Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Rain at Atlanta Motor Speedway made the 2022 season the third NASCAR Cup Series season to see the starting lineup formula put into effect.

The weather forecast for this past Friday, the opening day of the first NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the track was repaved and reconfigured, was never looking super promising.

And inclement weather did indeed play a role in altering the schedule early on.

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Friday was initially set to see a Cup Series practice session at the newly repaved and reconfigured four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478-kilometer) high-banked oval in Hampton, Georgia, but storms prevented that from happening.

As a result, practice was moved from Friday to Saturday, and NASCAR canceled the qualifying session, which was initially scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

So the qualifying formula made its return and set another starting lineup. But what, exactly, is the formula, and why is it used?

After NASCAR returned from an unexpected 10-week hiatus caused by COVID-19-related restrictions in the 2020 season, practice and qualifying sessions were largely abandoned.

NASCAR began setting the starting lineups by random draws among several groups of drivers based on the point standings.

But later that year, they went to a less luck-based approach by creating a starting lineup formula. In 2021, when practice and qualifying sessions were still sparse, the usage of that formula continued on a regular basis.

That formula includes the following four (for full-time drivers, three) variables.

  • Rank in owner standings: 35%
  • Finish in previous race (driver): 25%
  • Finish in previous race (car owner): 25%
    • NOTE: For full-time drivers, these two 25% categories are effectively one category of 50%
  • Rank of driver’s fastest lap in previous race: 15%

The lowest result is considered the best while the highest is considered the worst, and the drivers line up based on those numbers.

With practice and qualifying returning on a full-time basis in 2022, the formula was naturally tucked away. However, it has still been used on a weekly basis, as NASCAR has found an alternate way to use it.

The very same formula is now used to determine the qualifying order. However, instead of the driver with the lowest number going out first, the driver with the highest number goes out first. So the order is basically flipped from what it would be if the formula was still setting the starting lineups.

But in a case like we saw earlier this weekend with qualifying canceled, the formula made a return to its roots and set the starting lineup as opposed to the qualifying order, just like it did throughout the latter part of the 2020 season and then again throughout the 2021 season.

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As a result of the formula, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe is set to start Sunday afternoon’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 from the pole position behind the wheel of his #14 Ford (Full starting lineup available here). Tune in to Fox at 3:00 p.m. ET for the live broadcast of the race from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Start your free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!