Friday, March 24, 2023

Indy 500 will have new qualifying format for the 2022 race

IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are introducing a new qualifying format for next month’s Indianapolis 500, looking to add drama and intrigue to time trial qualifying sessions that will likely come without any driver or team being bumped from the field. On Tuesday, it was announced that the traditional “Fast Nine” format to determine the pole for the Indy 500 will be expanded to 12 drivers with the addition of another round of qualifying.

Day one of qualifying will begin in a randomized order via a draw after Fast Friday for each car to make its initial run. Qualifying will then continue with drivers being permitted to enter one of two lanes: In lane one, a driver must withdraw the qualifying time they have currently posted, and their new four-lap average will count as their time of record. In lane two, a driver’s new time will only count if it is better than their previous run.

On day two, the fastest 12 drivers from day one will compete in two rounds of qualifying to determine the first four rows for the Indianapolis 500. Starting in reverse order of day one speeds, each of the 12 drivers will have a guaranteed attempt to post a traditional four-lap qualifying time, with the fastest six advancing to the Fast Six where they will compete for the Indianapolis 500 pole.

In the Fast Six, each entrant will be guaranteed one qualifying attempt with the fastest winning the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 and a $100,000 prize. IndyCar championship points will also be awarded to each driver that advances to the Top 12 qualifying session, with the polesitter receiving 12 points, second place receiving 11, and so on.

“We have an incredibly deep field heading into this year’s Indianapolis 500,” read a statement by IndyCar President Jay Frye. “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.”

A new qualifying format for the Indianapolis 500 was prompted by the absence of any “Bump Day” drama that usually gives Indy 500 qualifying its intrigue. As noted by Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star, there are currently only 32 confirmed entries for this year’s Indy 500 and momentum behind only one more prospective entry, making for a full field of cars that would all be guaranteed to race.

In the event that there ends up being more than 33 entries, the Speedway will hold a last chance qualifying session the Sunday before the Indianapolis 500 to determine qualifying spots 31-33.

Winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 remains one of the great accomplishments leading into the race and also one of the great accomplishments in IndyCar as a whole. Recent polesitters for the Indianapolis 500 include Scott Dixon (2017, 2021), Marco Andretti (2020), Simon Pagenaud (2019), and Ed Carpenter (2018).

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