For most races in the NASCAR season, qualifying takes place in the days just prior to the event, with all entrants taking one or two "hot laps" before the starting grid is set on speed. Again, though, the top 35 cars in owner points will all be in the field—regardless of how poorly they perform in qualifying. That means that only the seven open spots are really up for grabs, with either a past champion or an eighth wild card taking the last position.
Qualifying is important in that it dictates a driver's pit-stall location. Most NASCAR tracks—especially the short ones like Martinsville and Richmond—have some constraints on pit road. A top qualifying position allows a team to choose the sweetest spot in the pits: either the first or last stall, or one adjacent to an opening in the wall around the garage area. Such digs effectively give the driver more room to maneuver coming in and out of the pits, thus diminishing the likelihood of his being blocked by another car.
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