Practice sessions will take on an entirely new dimension at the IZOD IndyCar Series oval event June 22 at Iowa Speedway. That’s when heat races will replace single-car qualifications to set the starting grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250.
INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, announced that three heat races of 30 laps each would follow practice earlier in the day. Three groups would be determined by practice times: One group for the top 10 that would set starting positions 1-10, another for odd-numbered practice positions that would set starting positions 11, 13, 15, etc., and a third for even-numbered practice positions that would set starting positions 12, 14, 16, etc.
Beaux Barfield, INDYCAR President of Competition and the IZOD IndyCar Series Race Director, also said that double-file restarts introduced in 2011 will remain part of races except at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway (the high-speed ovals on the 16-race schedule). He also noted that standing starts could be implemented at a few events later in the season.
“I’ve spent the past five weeks writing rules and I have to write a lot more rules for standing starts,” Barfield said. “There’s a lot of equipment necessary to get and put into place, and most importantly there’s so much development going on with the teams and the cars that I want to be respectful of before I throw a lot of new things at them.”
The new oval qualifying procedure will complement the three rounds of qualifications held on road/street courses, culminating in the exciting Firestone Fast Six.
“In the same vein of implementing double-file restarts, we looked at heat races as something that could add excitement to our races and just improve the product,” said Barfield, who added that 2013 oval events could be a mix of heat races and single-car qualifications. “This is the first of a few concepts we’re considering. The build-up we presently have for the Firestone Fast Six has that excitement and we wanted to do something similar for the oval events.
“It’s going back to the heritage of short-track races.”
Iowa Speedway, at 0.875 miles, is the shortest oval on the schedule.
“With the addition of three, 30-lap heat races for qualifying, fans who attend the Iowa Corn Indy 250 weekend will get INDYCAR racing on both days – enhancing the overall experience they get at Iowa Speedway,” Iowa Speedway President Stan Clement said. “Our fans already understand this style of qualifying, so we know they will really enjoy it.”
The season finale Sept. 15 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., is the only oval event to follow Iowa Speedway on the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule and will continue with single-car qualifications with cumulative time of two timed laps setting the grid. Also, single-car qualifications will continue to set the starting grid at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile. Qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 are four timed laps.
Tickets are on sale for the Iowa event at www.iowaspeedway.com. Single event tickets go on sale Feb. 23.