Format changes enhance battle to qualify for Indianapolis 500

Event PR, IndyCar, IndyCar News/Releases — By on March 7, 2014 7:09 pm
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[Source: Indianapolis Motor Speedway press release]

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New qualification procedure for the Indianapolis 500INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, March 7, 2014) – INDYCAR announced a new qualifying format to set the 33-car starting lineup for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Qualifying will be enhanced with three sessions of time trials over two eventful days, with the goal of increasing entertainment value, fan attendance and TV viewership for the 2014 qualifying weekend on May 17-18, 2014.

“This new format includes two exciting days of on-track action, all culminating on Sunday with the Fast Nine Shootout,” said Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman Motorsports. “Fans get to watch their favorite drivers battle to make the field on Saturday, and then fight for a pole position on Sunday. It will be a great show for fans attending the race and watching the broadcast on ABC.” 

The format is as follows:

• Saturday, May 17 (11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. ET) 

  o The fastest 33 cars compose the starting field (but not starting positions).

  o All entries are guaranteed at least one four-lap attempt to qualify. 

  o The fastest nine entries advance to the Fast Nine Shootout.

• Sunday, May 18 (10:15 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET)

  o Saturday times are erased and entries 10-33 must complete another four-lap attempt to determine their starting position in order of the slowest to fastest from Saturday times. 

• Fast Nine Shootout, Sunday, May 18 (2-2:45 p.m. ET)

  o Each entry will receive one four-lap attempt in the order of the slowest to the fastest from Saturday times. Aggregate times will determine the Verizon P1 Award winner and top three rows.

Qualifying results on Saturday and Sunday will include new points incentives to be announced at a later date. Practice sessions before time trials commence are scheduled both days.

“There is an enormous amount of talent in the field this year, which so far includes five former Indianapolis 500 champions,” said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. “The new format presents an additional challenge to drivers who have one chance to make the field on Saturday, and start over again on Sunday to determine their starting position.”

Fans at home will be able to track their favorite drivers’ progress as they attempt to qualify for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with extensive coverage on ABC. The network will televise qualifications live from 4-6 p.m. (ET) Saturday, May 17, and 1-3 p.m. (ET) Sunday, May 18, in addition to the 200-lap race Sunday, May 25, marking its 50th consecutive year of coverage of the race.

Additional hours of qualifying will be carried on ESPN3, ESPN’s multi-screen live sports network, with the full schedule to be announced at a later date. 

“Down through history, qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 has made for many dramatic and compelling television moments, and we’re confident that the leadership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR will continue that tradition with this new format. We look forward to bringing it all to our viewers in May,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production.

Beginning today through April 15, fans may purchase a qualifying ticket package for Saturday and Sunday for $30 (single day tickets are $20). 

The Fast Nine Shootout was introduced in 2010 as part of time trials. Ed Carpenter claimed the pole last May with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph, becoming the first team owner/driver since 1975 to earn the coveted No. 1 starting position.

“You have to take big risks when you’re taking a run at the pole or trying to get into the shootout,” said Carpenter, who recorded a fast lap of 229.347 mph during his final run. “We’re always at the limit of what our cars have and never more so than qualifying at Indianapolis. The driver has to be perfect to execute a pole-type run and doing it while the car is right on the edge of its capabilities. It’s extremely stressful and challenging and then rewarding when it goes well. It’s definitely one of the hardest things we do all year long if not the hardest.”

Eighteen drivers have won the historic race from the pole position – most recently Helio Castroneves in 2009. Rick Mears, who earned the pole six times at Indianapolis, won three of his four races from the top starting position.

Team Penske’s Castroneves, a four-time Indy 500 pole sitter, seeks to join Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as the only four-time winners of the race. Tony Kanaan, who won the 97th Indianapolis 500 after starting 12th, will drive the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in an attempt to successfully defend his title. Kanaan’s new teammate, reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, will seek to win his second 500 Mile Race. He won from the pole in 2008.

Mears (1979, 1981) and Johnny Rutherford (1980) combined for the lone three-year stretches in which the pole sitter won the race.

Next: Quotes from Mark Miles, Derrick Walker, and Graham Rahal

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