LIVE BLOG: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on May 16, 2014 1:56 pm

4:04 pm ET — Lots to catch up on, but probably little that you haven’t already figured out.  In the “morning” qualifying session, most drivers made big gains in their speeds, and several drivers made big jumps in their starting positions.  The biggest mover on the day was the Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry of Oriol Servia.  Servia had a disappointing run on Saturday, good for only 30th fastest, but he came back today and improved his position by 12 spots.  Servia will start outside of row 6.

Also showing good improvements were the Target Chip Ganassi cars of Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.  Both drivers struggled mightily on Saturday and continued to struggle in the morning practice session.  When they were on the clock though, both guys drove like champions.  Scott Dixon won’t be happy about starting 11th, nor will TK be excited starting inside row 6.  However, given their struggles this week, both teams have to be relieved to have found some speed rather than floundering around in the mid 20s.  Both of these drivers are likely to still be strong on race day, so I’m not ready to count either one out yet.

In the “afternoon” Fast 9 session, Ed Carpenter prevailed once again to become the 11th driver to win back-to-back poles at Indianapolis.  Carpenter was able to knock James Hinchcliffe off the top spot with a run that saw three of his four laps exceed Hinch’s average speed.  It was a popular “win” for the Indianapolis native and showed once again that Ed is one of the best oval drivers in the field.

Little else that transpired in the Fast 9 was really much of a surprise.  Chevrolet and Honda are evenly split with three cars apiece in the front two rows.  Andretti and Penske each put two cars in the top six with Carpenter and Simon Pagenaud filling the two remaining spots.

So did the new qualifying format fulfill its intended purpose?  If one considers the excitement and action it created, then the answer is yes.  If one considers success from an attendance standpoint, it was pretty much a failure.  I realize that the system might take a couple years to see returns, but attendance this year was as spare as I have ever seen.  Today did seem to have more butts in the stands than Saturday whether because of the action on track or the nicer weather, but I don’t think IMS will be bragging about attendance figures for the week.

From a TV standpoint, I honestly don’t know how it will be received.  I guess time will tell.  With only a single car on track at a time, TV has a much better opportunity to deliver the action and drama than they do even during the race.  One particular issue that might be addressed is having the Fast 9 run in the middle of the afternoon, generally the hottest part of the day when the speeds are the slowest.  In this year’s qualifying, the 11th and 12th place starters were actually faster than the 2nd place starter and many of the “morning” qualifiers were faster than the “afternoon” qualifiers.  It was somewhat anticlimactic from a fan standpoint.  What that does for TV ratings remains to be seen.  It will take a couple of years to really understand the impact of the overall system on both attendance and ratings.  That isn’t to say tweaks might not be necessary for next year, but for the time being, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Between the qualifying sessions, I had a chance to sit down with Bobby Unser to discuss a myriad of topics regarding the qualifying format and the state of IndyCar racing in general.  As you can imagine, Uncle Bobby expressed many strong opinions on how we got to the state we’re in, who’s to blame, and what can begun to start turning the tide.  Look for a full post on my conversation with Unser later this week on More Front Wing.

I’ll be back with more coverage later this evening, but it’s time to hit the road and head home for now.

NEXT PAGE: More coverage from Day 2 of qualifications at IMS

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6