Phoenix Qualifying Report

Phoenix qualifying gave us our first look at the new short-track package instituted to address shortcomings in 2019 racing in a competitive setting. What does qualifying tell us about the field?

The Pole Time

38 cars posted qualifying times for this race. Data are from the official NASCAR report as posted by Jayski.

Chase Elliott won the pole with a time of 26.065 seconds. He beat Kevin Harvick by 4.5 hundredths of a second or 0.2%.

Pole times for Phoenix qualifying have ranged between 25.48 seconds (2018) and 27.040 seconds (2007). Elliott’s time is the fifth fastest qualifying time for a Phoenix spring race

The Field

An xy plot showing seconds off the pole for Phoenix spring qualifying. The inset shows a pie chart describing which drivers had fastest laps on lap 1 or lap 2

There is a long, almost linear decline in times from P1 to P26. All 26 cars (68% of the field) are within a half second of pole sitter Chase Elliott’s time. Compare that to last year, where 19 out of 36 (53%) cars were within 1/2 second of the pole time.

Looking a little closer at

An additional 6 cars qualified for Phoenix this year with times within one second of the pole time, which makes 84% of the cars within one second of the qualifying pole time. Last year, 30 out of 36 drivers (83%) qualified within one second of the pole, so not much change there.

The final 6 cars in the field are between one second and 1.6 seconds off the pole time. Last year, the slowest car in the field was 1.72 second behind the pole.

Lap 1 vs Lap 2

The inset shows which of the two laps was faster for each car. About 60% of the cars ran their fastest lap on their first run around the track. For the other 30% of the cars, the second lap was the faster one. Some of this may have more to do with drivers experimenting with different grooves on different laps. With two laps of qualifying at Phoenix, why not?

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