The INDYCAR at Iowa qualifying format explained

This weekend is unique for the NTT INDYCAR Series. For the first and only time of the season, the Hy-Vee INDYCAR race weekend on the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway short track is a doubleheader format. By virtue of that, you’ll see a special qualifying format as well.

On Saturday, the series will qualify at 10:30 a.m. ET. Like they did the last time out here in 2020 for when the race weekend was also a doubleheader, it will be a two-lap qualifying format.

The first lap determines their starting spot for the first race of the weekend, the 250 presented by DoorDash (4 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) The second lap will set the starting grid for the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).

“You know what, it’s not so much the lap, the one lap for each race. It’s just that you wake up in the morning, you get breakfast, the next thing you know you’re out for one warmup lap, then quallie lap,” Romain Grosjean said. “You don’t have warmup. I think that’s really something different. I like it. But going into turn one, first thing in the morning, as fast as you can get…”

Will Power agreed.

“I was thinking about the same thing,” said Fridays fastest driver. “I’m like, Man, how do you get out of bed then try to go as fast as you can around Iowa for two laps?”

Power says qualifying here is completely different than when they first started coming here.

“Back in ’10, we actually tried to run the white line. You could run the short line for speed. I think it was wide open. Must have been close to wide open. I think in ’08, wide open for sure. Yeah, you’re just doing a short line. Now you’re more to the wall, down the apex, and you’re lifting. Yeah, quite different.”

This format was used for the oval doubleheaders in 2020 at Iowa and World Wide Technology Raceway, with different drivers taking the top spots for both races at both venues.

Conor Daly claimed his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole for the first race at Iowa at 175.188 mph, and Josef Newgarden took the top spot for the second race at 175.107. Will Power won the NTT P1 Award for Race 1 at WWRT, with Takuma Sato claiming pole for the second race.

The qualifying system also was scheduled for the oval doubleheader in 2021 at Texas Motor Speedway, but the field for both races was set by points after rain washed out time trials.

Qualifying Stats

  • Just 1 time in 13 races has the pole winner won. Last time out, Simon Pagenaud came from the last row in Race 1 of the 2020 weekend while Josef Newgarden came from the pole a day later. There’s been 1 pole winner all year (St. Pete) and 1 in the last 11 overall.
  • 4 of the last 6 winners have started in the top 3.
  • 3 straight races on the season were won by a 2nd place starter.
  • The night races produced winners from further back. The starting spots of the winners during night races? 17th, 7th, 13th, 9th, 3rd, 23rd and 1st respectively.
  • The starting spots in the day races? 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 15th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd and 11th respectively.

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