The NHRA’s decision to condense the Virginia Nationals into two days doesn’t present as big of a challenge to the more prominent teams as one might expect.

In. his first season as a Top Fuel driver, Tony Stewart believes the format will be just fine for his team. 

“I honestly think our team is more than capable of handling it," Stewart said. "On race day, they’re doing four rounds if they make it to the final. So, three rounds and having the time to prepare beforehand makes it not an issue as far as the teams are concerned. 

"From a driver's standpoint, I like it better because I feel like I can get into more of a rhythm instead of having the sessions split between two days. I am looking forward to the format."

The NHRA's willingness to embrace the idea that had been presented to them in previous years came largely from watching the format successfully carried out at the PRO Superstar Shootout during a pre-season test/race in Bradenton, Fla.

"We’ll be going back to a market we haven’t been to for a couple years, so hopefully this format helps with that and gives the fans the opportunity to see three rounds in one day," Stewart said. "If you haven’t been to a drag race before or had the opportunity to watch the entire field of nitro cars make three runs, it is something you never get to see. Normally, it’s just two in a day. 

"Even though fans get to see eliminations on Sunday, half the field is gone each round. I think it is a unique format. Saturday is always a huge day for NHRA racing and to have three rounds will make it a very special event for the fans.”

Fellow Top Fuel racer Josh Hart commends the NHRA for trying new procedures. He believes it works well for him. 



“I like that the NHRA is trying something new,” said Hart, a two-time Top Fuel national event winner. “We ran a similar format at the PRO Superstar Shootout pre-season event with three qualifiers in one day and then the race the next day. It was well received, and I am glad the NHRA is mixing it up. I am looking forward to getting back to Virginia Motorsports Park. Every team wants to get as many qualifying runs as possible. I think getting three in a row could give us a good start for race day.”

While it might be a good fit for the higher funded teams, the independent operations might not be as enthused. 

John Smith, who races with his father, Paul Smith, said the burden on the smaller teams can be overwhelming. They pulled out of this weekend's event, choosing to focus on next weekend's Norwalk event. 

"The smaller teams, when you run sessions that close, is going to be hard for them," Smith said. "I like the concept of running three times in one day, but it is tough for us to make three runs in one day. I would say you will have some teams run the first run, sit out the second, and come back for the third."

Per NHRA's policies, teams that run less than a full compliment of the qualifying passes get paid less money. 

"It's kind of a catch-22 situation," Smith said.  

Funny Car racer Matt Hagan believes the format will be great for the fans who usually account for some of NHRA's biggest attendance days on Saturday, the final day of qualifying. 

“The format will keep fans very engaged," Hagan said. "Sometimes, there’s one session on Friday, so you’re in and out. It’s almost like a championship Sunday where you do four runs in one day, and we’ve proven we can do four runs in one day.”