New Indy Format Brings Big Changes For Teams

It is an entirely different atmosphere at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. A new format condensing the “Month of May”, into the two weeks of May have added a new sense of urgency and stress to the preparations for the big race.

In addition to opening the track one week later than in the past, qualifying is in a new format and has shrunk to two days from the previous four.

On Saturday, May 22, 24 spots in the 33-car field will be up for grabs from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time.) The fastest nine of the 24 qualifiers will be locked into the top nine but, they will have their times erased and be required to re-qualify between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 23, the final nine spots in the field will be filled, and then the traditional opportunities to “bump” into the field will begin.

“The Fast Nine” will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt, with one additional, optional attempt, if time permits. Each driver’s best run during the 90-minute session will set their position within the top nine spots on the starting grid.

If bad weather prevents the 90-minute shoot-out session, the times from the first session will stand.

The first session time will also determine pit selection order. Where a car is pitted can often be a big factor in race strategy.

Other factors also enter into the importance of a fast time this year. The bonus for winning the pole position is $175,000. Second-quickest will receive $75,000 and the final front-row starter will earn a $50,000 bonus.

Additionally, there are a lot of championship points available in qualifying.

At all other races in the IZOD IndyCar series, one point is awarded to the fastest qualifier, one for the fastest lap and 50 points for the race win.

For the Indianapolis 500, the qualifying point structure is entirely different. The pole winner will be awarded 15 points, second fastest will receive 13 points and the third-quickest qualifier will receive 12 points.

Those qualifying in the second and third rows will receive, in descending order, between 11 and six points. Qualifying positions 10-24 will each receive four bonus points. Those qualifying in positions 25-33 will earn three points.

Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the sanctioning Indy Racing League commented on the format change.

“The rewards of the qualifying format help to make the Indianapolis 500 the most important race on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule,” he said.

“Teams and drivers in the shootout will have to make a decision after their initial run in the “Fast Nine” segment, whether they want to attempt to move up on the grid with a final attempt. Not only would they potentially have a higher starting position, but they would accumulate more bonus points that could come into play later in the season in the driver championship,” he added.

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