IndyCar Drivers Welcome New Qualifying Format

Daytona Beach, FL ? The IndyCar Series announced this week it will implement four-lap qualifying runs at every oval track race in 2008, beginning with the season opener at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29. According to the announcement, the driver who records the fastest cumulative time will be the pole winner. The revised qualification procedure replaces the traditional single-lap qualifying standard followed at all oval tracks other than the Indianapolis 500.

Numerous IndyCar drivers are competing in the Rolex24 at the Daytona International Speedway this weekend, and those surveyed welcomed the change and thought the biggest challenge would occur on the shorter tracks.

?I think it is good and will be very intriguing for the fans,? Dan Wheldon said. ?It will definitely spice up the action a little bit, and it will put more pressure on the teams.?

His teammate Scott Dixon added, ?From my point of view, qualification runs of four laps are an Indianapolis tradition and it should stay that way. Going forward, it will make for more fun for everyone and practice and qualification simulations will have to change.?

Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe were complimentary of the revision. ?Although I enjoyed the way it was, I guess it will make things more competitive and I am ready for it,? Castroneves stated. Added Briscoe, ?It will make us work harder and we will have to make several set-up changes during practice. Also, it will give us more to think about in qualifying and keep us very busy on the shorter ovals.?

Buddy Rice, an Indianapolis 500 winner, believed it will be interesting to see how the new rule is addressed. ?I like the four-lap format at Indianapolis but doing the same thing on the other ovals will be different,? he said. ?For qualifying, you put on new tires and depending on the number of warm-up laps run, the tires can fall off quickly. At tracks like Nashville and Kentucky, tire performance will be very important.?

2007 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti has moved on to NASCAR?s Sprint Cup circuit but he hasn?t lost track of his stomping grounds. ?I have mixed feelings about the new rule,? he commented. ?I am a traditionalist and would like to see the four-lap format set aside just for Indianapolis. If a change was desired, a two-lap format would have been a reasonable compromise.? The likable Scotsman complimented IndyCar officials for being willing to try different things.

Vision Racing teammates A. J. Foyt IV and Ed Carpenter lauded officials for pushing the envelope. ?It is great to do something like they do at Indianapolis, as the Indianapolis 500 is the best race in the world,? young Foyt said. Carpenter stated, ?I think it will be fun. On the big speedways, it won?t be a big deal, but it will be somewhat difficult on the shorter ovals. Sometimes we take the green flag on the second or third time by the starter?s stand, so it may change our approach.?

As a whole, the IndyCar Series drivers were eager for the season to begin and they expect to address the new procedures during a pre-season test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on February 27 and 28.

The 2008 IndyCar season commences at HMS with the SpeedJam Indy 300 on Saturday night, March 29.

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