Making Sense Of The New Indy 500 Qualifying Format, Why This Is A Much Needed Change

INDIANAPOLIS – The fans asked, IndyCar listened. On Thursday, the NTT IndyCar Series revealed the new qualifying procedures for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. The scenario that the fans have been wanting, is happening.

On Saturday, only spots 10-33 will be guaranteed. On Sunday, only spots 1-9 and 31 on back will have to requalify. It’s back to where it needs to be.

Now, I get where this could be a bit confusing, but lets dig deeper.

Saturday may seem like a “what’s the point” but here’s why it will be dramatic. See, teams want to be in the Fast Nine with a shot at the pole on Sunday. Alexander Rossi is a prime example of doing this last year. With how close lap times are in the series now a days, a more than capable driver who may be 20th or worse can easily get into the Fast Nine with some minor adjustments.

So, you’ll see that drama unfold. Also, you’ll see the drama unfold for the race to get off the 11th Row.

If you can get into the top 10 Rows, you’re guaranteed into the show. If you’re 31st or further back, you’re going to qualify as much as you can on Saturday to get off the bubble.

That’s a drama filled day still.

Then, it’s onto Sunday to set the field with two one-hour drama filled sessions.

Teams will have overnight to work on their cars and get them dialed in. So, if you were slightly off on Saturday, you have time to get your car right for Sunday.

Then, you get the agony of defeat in the first hour with drivers going home. I can make a strong case where we have 36-40 drivers showing up this year. That’s 3-7 drivers going home.

Last year, James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann were bumped and didn’t make the field. There were plenty of tears flowing and drama. It’s good TV. Unfortunately, ABC didn’t air any of it due to it being on a Saturday and only having 10 minutes to show.

This year, NBC will air this new session as well as the Fast Nine on network TV and will have post session time to capture the drama that has unfolded.

After the Last Row Session, it’s onto the Fast Nine to set the first 3 Rows. Again, more drama action packed network TV time.

After all of this, there’s a 3 hour race practice session which should feature some must see track time. The post qualifying Monday practice session is the best of the year. Unfortunately, with Carb Day being on Friday of that week, fans couldn’t take two days off. Now, another race practice will take place on the same qualifying day.

So, instead of a spread out six hour Time Trials day, you get two one-hour sessions then a 3+ hour practice session too.


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