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Brad Keselowski said Saturday he is “not convinced” the NASCAR industry made the right moves with its schedule that limits practice time for teams.
“I miss the days of having practice and qualifying like we used to,” Keselowski said.
The RFK Racing driver and co-owner made the remarks after an admitted tough qualifying session at World Wie Technology Raceway. He starts 30th in the inaugural Cup Series race at the venue.
He did, however, point to the financial aspect of the process. Most weekends, Cup Series teams are at the racetrack for two days for a 20-minute Saturday practice that goes into qualifying and then a Sunday race.
“I think we probably saved a million or two in travel and spent it all back in simulation and engineering to try to unload at the racetrack and not blow out tires and still be fast, and arguably that’s not working for anybody,” Keselowski said. “It’s definitely time for a deep dive and look at the weekend schedules and the practice and qualifying formats.”
Before the sport changed with the pandemic, teams had two days filled with track time before going into a race. NASCAR implemented the current schedule coming out of the pandemic and through the introduction of the Next Gen car, a vehicle that is hoped to be a cost-cutting measure in the long run.
According to Keselowski, the sport went from one extreme of three-day weekends and thinking they were at the track too much to another extreme. He sees the practice as nothing more than a warmup instead of time to dial in a car — there’s not enough time to make changes and not enough changes allowed to be made.
“There’s a happy spot somewhere in the middle,” he said.
For WWTR, teams had a 50-minute practice session Friday, qualified Saturday and will race Sunday afternoon. Even at three days with only one hour of practice, Keselowski still doesn’t see where it’s saving money.
“I would really like to see our sport get back to where we’ve been with practice and qualifying,” Keselowski said. “From an owner’s perspective, we’re not really saving any significant amount of money, and arguably spending more in some areas, whether it’s the simulation or other pieces. I’d like to see us figure out a way to get that back on track.”
With limited track time, little information on a new car and major changes not allowed at the track, simulation and virtual laps have become the most significant resource for teams to prepare for a weekend. Nothing beats the real thing, though.
“There’s a reason we had the schedule we had for years with practice and qualifying and all that good stuff,” said Keselowski. “I think it was super successful, and it’s time to take a look back at that for next year.”