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Drivers lobby NASCAR to let them cool cars in pits during qualifying

Feb 28, 2014, 8:55 PM EDT

The Profit on CNBC 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

After making its debut today at Phoenix International Raceway, we can say NASCAR’s new knock-out qualifying format is more interesting than its former single-car qualifying format. But it’s definitely still a work in progress.

For example, one of the more notable instances from today’s session was drivers turning slow laps and cutting their motors on the track in an attempt to cool their cars down enough for one more hot lap. Under the rules of the new format, teams are not allowed to cool the cars down on pit road.

The slow laps made for a bit of a lull in the session, but more importantly, they’re a potential safety issue.

“When you’re going out there and you’re going 100 mph slower, the closing rate is really fast, so it gets kind of scary,” said Team Penske’s Joey Logano after qualifying on the front row for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500.

Jamie McMurray (pictured), who qualified third on the inside of Row 2 for Sunday’s event, believed that the sanctioning body should consider allowing the teams to be able to cool their cars in the pits.

“When we do normal qualifying runs and you shut the car off at the start/finish line and coast back to the garage – when you start the car back up, it’s had enough time to push the air through the radiator that when you start it up, it cools down 20 degrees. Everybody already knew that and I think it’d be hard to police on NASCAR’s side,” McMurray said.

“I mean, I’m answering your question with a statement – I think they need to let us cool the engines down so we can run full tape [on the grill] the whole time and eliminate that.”

McMurray believes that such a scenario would make it easier on teams to adjust their cars knowing they don’t have to gauge the temperature and decide if they need to pull tape off.

Furthermore, he believes it would be less costly for the teams as well.

“To me, what this will start is people buying expensive batteries so you can run better fans on the radiators to push more air – to me, it’ll just save everybody more money if we can just do the cool-down unit.”

Logano, perhaps noting the down time in the session, chimed in as well: “The cars would also go out more often. It takes so long to cool, so if you can do it in five minutes and go back out, there would be more cars on the race track to do a hot lap.”

As for NASCAR’s viewpoint, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said that the reason for not having cool-down units used was to ensure that the hoods would stay closed and illegal adjustments to the car would not be made.

“Like everything we’ve been able to do the last 4-6 months, we’ll continue to talk to the drivers and teams, and solicit feedback on how, if anything, we can improve,” he said.

“We heard some of the same [feedback] and we also heard drivers within the last 30 minutes stop by and say, ‘Don’t let anybody talk you into hooking up the cool-down units.’

“Because they feel it’s part of the strategy of how much tape you run, how many laps you run, how many times you run in the entire session. There are a whole menu of things that people want to work on and not work on.”

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