Welcome to More Front Wing’s live blog from qualifying weekend at the Indianapolis 500! MFW Co-editor Paul Dalbey is at the track tapping out updates all weekend long. Updates are posted with the most recent at the top, so if this is your first visit to the live blog please go to the last page and work your way forward. For Verizon IndyCar Series time sheets and race info, visit the Indianapolis 500 Event Summary.
8:31 pm ET — With a couple hours to chew on what I’ve witnessed over the past couple days, I think I’m more and more OK with the way some of the changes in qualifying have played out, but I continue to think some tweaks might be necessary. While the current format worked pretty well given that only 33 cars were attempting to make the field, I’m not sure the rules (at least as I understand them) need to apply when additional entries are added.
As I understand the rules, if more than 33 entries are trying to get into the field, positions 10-30 after Saturday qualifying are locked and bumping would only occur for positions 31-33. To me, this is an unnecessary point of confusion that only seems to exist so that drivers can be assigned late to cars after the first day of qualifications. If a driver is fast enough to get into the field, he or she should be placed according to rank within the day (or in this case within the session) they qualify. I understand this is to deter entrants from skipping the Saturday qualifying session, but as with many things that have been happening lately, the system seeks to mask the symptom, not fix the underlying cause of the problem.
What opinions I have been able to glean from talking with people at the track and from a quick perusal of Twitter suggests that fans were generally pleased with the new format. That opinion certainly wasn’t universal, but by and large, the reception has been positive. That’s good. Yes, the crowd was abysmal, especially on Saturday, but it was a pipe dream to expect the new procedures to instantly draw 50,000 fans in its first year. It will take time. And it may never get back to 50,000 in attendance. But giving this format a decent shake is only fair.
The drama of the shootout has proven popular among fans at the track and has kept suspense going all day long. Back in the “good old days,” it wasn’t uncommon for the pole-winning qualification run to be completed by 1:00 in the afternoon, leaving fans to just sit around the rest of the afternoon waiting to see if anyone could go faster. It was often anticlimactic. The shootout format ensures the crowd will see the pole winning run sometime late in the day. With that, I’m OK.
Look, it’s not 1960 anymore. It’s not 1990 anymore. It’s not even 2000 anymore. The Indianapolis 500 exists in a very different era today than it did in years past. The are a number of factors to blame for the demise and lack of interest in Time Trials, some the fault of people directly related to the sport and some beyond the control of anyone at 16th and Georgetown, but the fact remains that IMS must change with the times. That change can be instilled while keeping an eye toward the great traditions of the Speedway, but change can’t be thwarted solely in the name of tradition or because was previously worked worked damn fine for the better part of 80 years. In today’s world, that logic just doesn’t cut it anymore. Nor does the suggestion that simply turning back the clock and doing things exactly as they were done before, whether procedural or technical or otherwise, is the cure. It’s not. We simply cannot go back. And while the consequences and effects of poor decisions are still being felt to this day, that is not to say that many of the root causes were not in play when times appeared to be so good. The duck may have been showing its pretty feathers above the water, but let’s not fall prey to the notion the duck wasn’t scrambling its feet below the waterline. The Split was not the root of all ills in American Open Wheel Racing, and the notion that rewinding the clock to 1995 will make everything right again is just a naive fallacy. For better or worse, we simply don’t live in 1995 anymore.
Now the attention turns to tomorrow’s post-qualifying practice session (speaking of lost traditions…) and next weekend’s running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. We’ll preview and break down the race in detail during the week and on this week’s podcast. The long and short of it is that we won’t have any no idea how the race is going to play out until the checkered flag falls next Sunday. With Honda and Chevrolet appearing to be so evenly matched, I fully expect the race to be every bit as exciting and nail biting as it was in 2012 and 2013. I can’t wait to find out!!
Thanks again for following along with our coverage this weekend. Please let us know what you thought about the new qualifying format and any other comments from the weekend. Be sure to check back with MFW this week as we’ll have our Indianapolis 500 preview podcast (including 500 Trivia with Oilpressure.com‘s George Phillips), a review of MFW contributor John Lingle’s book Hard Luck Lloyd, and my interview with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser. It’s all part of the lead-up to the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500!!
NEXT PAGE: More coverage from Day 2 of qualifications at IMS