TALLADEGA, ALA. | The spacious Talladega Speedway is like no other on the NASCAR schedule. It’s so wide and fast, it requires a completely different attitude.


Success comes easiest in huge packs of traffic. Blocking is customary, which accelerates the chances of a big wreck.

Feelings get hurt, cars get crashed. Usual alliances will be broken; unusual alliances will be formed.

And that’s just in qualifying.

The new knockout qualifying format will make every lap during time trials like the final lap in the main event. With plenty of entertainment value, Fox network will televise it live on Saturday. All other qualifying in NASCAR, including the Daytona 500, is on cable.

“It will be interesting and it’s just kind of a crap shoot just like the race, but it will be exciting for sure,” Kevin Harvick said. “It will definitely be better than watching 3 1/2 hours of one car going around the race track, I promise you that.”

All 47 entries first will run together in a 25-minute session. The fastest 24 then will move to a 10-minute session. After that comes a final five-minute session among the top 12.

The fastest lap in the final five minutes will start Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 on the pole.

The quickest way around the 2.66-mile racetrack is to run in a large group since cars traveling nose-to-tail divide wind resistance. That’s why it’s likely the Ford teams will run together in qualifying. The same for Chevrolet and Toyota.

But when it comes down to making the cut, will there be any real teammates on the track?

“It’s a wild set of circumstances that happen and qualifying is going to be the first part of that,” Clint Bowyer said. “Trying to strategize and get that run.

“I really do think you’re going to have to go out in a pack, a big pack and try to lag back and get that big run and make the most of it. All you are is one little step of somebody moving up and blocking or changing lanes on you and you had that big run and you have to check up then you’ll lose that momentum and then you’ll be knocked out.”

So far, drivers and fans seem to like knockout qualifying. Talladega should take the new format to a new plateau.

“The only time we have had to do that at Talladega was last year, I believe, and we knew it was going to rain qualifying out so everyone was trying to post the fastest time and it was insanity,’’ driver Carl Edwards said. “We ended up on the pole, which was great, but we almost wrecked the race car.”

Edwards said with so many people waiting to jump out of line to post the fastest lap, there may be a greater risk of an accident in qualifying.

“It’s going to be interesting,” he said.

Starting up front will take a lot of strategy. Staying up there during the race will be nearly impossible.

A well-timed breakaway can advance a driver by 10 positions in a half-lap. A poorly time move can drop them to last place.

“If you’re 25th [in qualifying], trust me, you’re not going to sleep uneasy the night before the race because you’re starting 25th,” Denny Hamlin said. “That can change within lap one.”

The speedway is trying to rekindle its reputation for being the wildest place to see a race. The infield and campgrounds are notorious for the wild parties — much like the race itself.

Bowyer had this message for the racetrack:

“Talladega has always been a party, just quit trying to get in the way of it and let it happen this time,” he said.

Including qualifying.