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Changes Keep Coming For Indy’s Month Of May

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 25 2014

Practice and qualifying procedures for next month's running of the Indy 500 will have a different look. (INDYCAR/LAT USA file photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

INDYCAR has re-tweaked the qualifying format to fill the traditional 33-car starting field for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 via an addition to next month’s practice schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The schedule change features a Verizon IndyCar Series practice session on Monday, May 19, from 12-5 p.m. (EST). The extra day of on-track activity will be open to the public like any practice day during the Month of May. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is scheduled for Sunday, May 25.

In March, INDYCAR unveiled a qualification format featuring three sessions of time trials over two days, with the goal of increasing entertainment value, fan attendance and TV viewership over the May 17-18 weekend. Time trials will culminate on Sunday, May 18, with the Fast Nine Shootout, which will determine the coveted Indianapolis 500 pole position and recipient of the Verizon P1 Award.

“On Sunday teams will be completely focused on qualifying, so we added another practice session to give them a sufficient amount of time to test their race setups,” Derrick Walker, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said in a statement. “Previously, a majority of teams have utilized most of Sunday for full-tank running, so it was important for us to continue to give them that opportunity after qualifications are complete.”

INDYCAR also confirmed an update to the qualification format that allows a competitor that suffers a hardship in qualifying at the conclusion of Saturday, May 17, an opportunity to make the starting field during Sunday qualifications. This revision also would permit teams that want to bring new entries forward after qualifying on Saturday an opportunity to compete for a position in the race. In both cases, these teams would be restricted to the last row of the field.

“As our qualifying format evolves we continue to evaluate what is best for the competitors,” Walker said. “We realized the need to provide teams that suffer an unexpected hardship on Saturday a second chance to make the Indianapolis 500. The changes apply primarily for cars that crash or suffer a mechanical failure during their Saturday qualifying run. Ultimately, we will capture the fastest 33 cars and that’s who will make the race.”

At the conclusion of Saturday’s qualifications, positions 31-33 will be provisional and those cars – plus any entry not already in the field that has declared its intention to qualify to INDYCAR prior to 7 p.m. (EST) on Saturday – will participate in a separate qualification session on Sunday to determine the 11th row on the grid.

The complete format is as follows:

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

_ The fastest 33 cars will make up the starting field (but not starting positions).

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

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

On Sunday, May 18, Saturday’s times will be 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. Sunday’s qualifying will include three separate group sessions:

_ Group One (10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. EST) _ Determines starting positions 10-30;

_ Group Two (12:45-1:30 p.m. EST) _ Determines positions 31-33; and

_ The Fast Nine Shootout (2:00-2:45 p.m. EST) _ Determines the Verizon P1 Award winner and first three rows of the race.

The Fast Nine Shootout was introduced in 2010 as a part of time trials. Ed Carpenter claimed the pole last May with a four-lap/10-mile average speed of 228.762 mph, becoming the first team owner/driver since 1975 to earn P1.

Eighteen drivers have won the historic race from the pole position, most recently Helio Castroneves of Team Penske in 2009. Rick Mears, who earned the pole six times at IMS, won three of his four races for Team Penske on the 2.5-mile oval from the top starting position.

A four-time Indy 500 pole-sitter, Castroneves will attempt to join Mears, A.J. Foyt Jr. and Al Unser as the race’s only four-time winners. Tony Kanaan, who won the 97th Indianapolis 500 after starting 12th for KV Racing Technology last May, will attempt to defend his title next month with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

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

Fans can follow qualifying for domestic open-wheel racing’s premier event via ABC’s extensive coverage. The network will televise qualifications live from 4-6 p.m. (EST) Saturday, May 17, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday, May 18, in addition to the race, marking its 50th consecutive year of coverage. 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.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 25 2014
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