Indy’s May Begins On May Day in Alabama

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 1 2022

Rinus VeeKay will start from the pole at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

INDYCAR’s tradition-bound “Month of May” will begin Sunday afternoon to the strains of Back Home Again in Alabama…eventually en route to a revised qualifying format for the 106th edition of the Indianapolis 500.

Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing qualified on-pole Saturday for today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. That non-traditional start to the most important month of the NTT IndyCar Series schedule will shift to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course on Saturday, May 14, followed by qualifying for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22.

INDYCAR officials have tweaked the four-lap/10-mile format for the Indy 500. After Day One of qualifying from noon-5:50 p.m. (ET) on May 21, Day Two will include two rounds of qualification attempts to decide the first four rows, including pole position.

Starting in reverse order of speeds based on Day One, each of the top-12 drivers will have a guaranteed attempt to post a traditional four-lap qualifying time around the 2.5-mile oval starting at 4 p.m. The fastest six will advance to the Firestone Fast Six at 5:10 p.m. to determine positions one through six and compete for the NTT P1 Award for pole. The slowest six will fill out starting positions seven through 12 according to their recorded time.

In the Firestone Fast Six, each entrant again will be guaranteed one attempt and qualify in reverse order based upon their Top-12 qualification results. The fastest driver will win pole position, which includes a $100,000 prize, with the remaining five drivers filling out the remainder of the first two rows.

“We have an incredibly deep field heading into this year’s Indianapolis 500,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said in a statement. “The timing is right to implement a new and dramatic way to expand one of the most intense weekends on our calendar. Winning pole position for the 500 is an incredible feat, and with this new format, it will be even more challenging.”

Series championship points will be awarded to those who advance into the Top-12 qualifying session. The Indy 500 pole-winner will receive 12 points, the second-fastest will receive 11 and points awarded will decrease in one-point increments down to 12th-fastest (one point).

“Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend always is special,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “This format will give our fans even more opportunities to see INDYCAR’S world-class drivers compete on racing’s biggest stage. While winning the race is the ultimate prize, capturing pole position for the 500 is one of motorsports’ most prestigious honors and almost a race within a race. I cannot wait to see this expanded format on the final Sunday before Race Day.”

A Last-Chance Qualifying session for spots 31-33 is scheduled from 2-3 p.m. (ET) on May 22 if there are more than 33 entries competing for a spot in the world’s most prestigious auto race. Each entry is guaranteed one attempt and can make multiple attempts until time expires. If multiple attempts are made, previous times are withdrawn, and the fastest non-qualified car assumes the 33rd spot.


PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying Schedule (All times ET, subject to change):

Saturday, May 21

9-10:30 a.m. _ Pre-Qualifying Practice: Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network

Noon-5:50 p.m. _ NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying: Setting positions 13-33 (or 13-30 if more than 33 entries) Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network

Sunday, May 22

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. _ Last-Chance Practice (If necessary): Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network

12:30-2 p.m. _Top-12 Practice: Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network

2-3 p.m. _ Last-Chance Qualifying: (Positions 31-33, if necessary) Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network

4 p.m. _ Indianapolis 500 Top-12 Qualifying: NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network

5:10 p.m. _ Firestone Fast Six: NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network

5:40 p.m. _ NTT P1 Award Presentation: NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network

A practice session for all 33 Indianapolis 500 starters is scheduled for noon-2 p.m. Monday, May 23, with live coverage on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Fans will be permitted in the infield only. Gates 2, 4, 6S, 7 and 7S will be open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Bronze and silver badges will be honored for gate admission and corresponding garage and pit access.

Live coverage of the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 29 on NBC, Peacock Premium, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network. The full “Month of May” schedule will be announced soon.


Rinus VeeKay earned his second career NTT P1 Award Saturday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Round 4 of the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule. VeeKay toured the 2.3-mile/17-turn natural terrain layout in 1 minute, 6.2507-seconds in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing. VeeKay’s previous pole was recorded in October 2020 for Race 1 of the Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course.

“It was a chaotic session,” said VeeKay, a 21-year-old native of The Netherlands. “We knew we were in a good position, but to actually put it on-pole was an accomplishment. I think the whole team maximized everything. We made the right decisions with tires, setup, everything. Confidence is high. I think from here we can have a great race and fight for the win, definitely.”

The 90-lap/207-mile race will start at 1:15 p.m. (ET) Sunday, with live coverage on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Team Penske drivers have won the first three races of the season, with Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand capturing the season-opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden winning at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and on the Streets of Long Beach.

VeeKay is the fourth different NTT P1 Award-winner in as many races this season. Native Mexican Pato O’Ward will join him on the front row after a best lap of 1:06.4003 during the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. O’Ward’s previous best starting spot this season was 10th on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval.

Reigning series champion and 2021 Barber winner Alex Palou of Spain will start third after a best lap of 1:06.4415 in the No. 10 The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. McLaughlin will join him in the second row after a top lap of 1:06.4967 in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet.

Alexander Rossi qualified fifth, tying a season best, with a lap of 1:06.5549 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. This effort was far more satisfying for Andretti Autosport and Rossi than his fifth-place starting spot earlier this month at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, as crews from all four Andretti teams hustled to repair or replace the entire back half of Rossi’s car in 2-hours, 45-minutes after he crashed during morning practice.

Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden will start sixth after his best lap of 1:06.6410 in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Arrow McLaren SP was the only team with more than one car in the Firestone Fast Six.

Championship point-leader Newgarden will start seventh in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet after falling less than two-hundredths of a second short of earning a spot in the Firestone Fast Six.

Callum Ilott of Great Britain was the top rookie qualifier, earning a career-best 11th spot in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. Ilott and a handful of other drivers were on quicker final laps at the end of the second round of qualifying when Swede Marcus Ericsson drove into the gravel in his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, triggering a red flag and ending the session.

Three former series champions will need to work overtime to advance to the front on the tight circuit after disappointing qualifying results. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon qualified 13th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon has finished on the podium in nine of his 11 previous starts at Barber Motorsports Park _ including six runner-up finishes _ but has yet to win at the picturesque road circuit.

Meanwhile, 2014 series champ Will Power will roll off 19th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion, labored through a frustrating Saturday to qualify 24th in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda fielded by Meyer Shank Racing.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).


Qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.3-mile/17-turn Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

  1. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:06.2507 (124.980 mph)
    2. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:06.4003 (124.698)
    3. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:06.4415 (124.621)
    4. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:06.4967 (124.517)
    5. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:06.5549 (124.409)
    6. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:06.6410 (124.248)
    7. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:06.3348 (124.821)
    8. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:06.3820 (124.733)
    9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:06.6339 (124.261)
    10. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:06.7295 (124.083)
    11. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 01:07.2000 (123.214)
    12. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:07.3561 (122.929)
    13. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:06.5142 (124.485)
    14. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 01:06.7462 (124.052)
    15. (45) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:06.6511 (124.229)
    16. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 01:06.8138 (123.926)
    17. (51) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:06.7541 (124.037)
    18. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 01:06.8898 (123.786)
    19. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:06.7775 (123.994)
    20. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 01:07.0242 (123.537)
    21. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Chevrolet, 01:06.8213 (123.913)
    22. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:07.0350 (123.518)
    23. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:07.6869 (122.328)
    24. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 01:07.1052 (123.388)
    25. (11) Tatiana Calderon, Chevrolet, 01:07.9248 (121.900)
    26. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:09.0075 (119.987)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 1 2022
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