Leading up to next month’s Indianapolis 500, the heads of the race today announced a revamped format to qualification that includes a top 9 shootout for pole.
It doesn’t take much to see that they are trying to make “the show” as exciting as possible. Sound like a familiar goal?
Here are the details:
The top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be available through traditional four-lap attempts from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (ET) [on May 22]. Each car will have up to three attempts during that time. The times of the top nine drivers from the first segment of qualifying will be erased at 4 p.m., with all of those competitors guaranteed to start no worse than ninth in the race May 30.
Those nine cars then will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt between 4:30-6 p.m., with one additional, optional attempt if time permits. Each driverâ€™s best run during the 90-minute session will set their position on the starting grid. If inclement weather prevents the 90-minute shootout, their times from the opening session will determine starting positions.
And here — and this is probably the important part for F1 fans — is the rationale:
â€œThis new format for Indianapolis 500 qualifying will deliver even more action and intensity for fans,â€ said Jeff Belskus, president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. â€œDrivers will go all out during the first session on Pole Day to get a chance to make a run for the pole. Then theyâ€™ll need to dig even deeper to find the speed for the pole in the last 90 minutes.
â€œPlus there still will be plenty of spots up for grabs on Bump Day, with all of the dramatic, last-minute bumping that generations of fans have loved about Indy. This is going to be a fantastic weekend of qualifying. I canâ€™t wait to see it unfold.â€
As additional incentive, the pole sitter will earn $175,000, a bump of $75,000 from 2009. The second-fastest will pocket $75,000, with the third spot and last front-row position earning $50,000.
Points, too, will be on the line: “The pole winner will receive 15 points, with the other front-row starters earning 13 and 12 points, respectively. Drivers in Rows 2 and 3 will receive, in descending order, between 11 and six points. Positions 10-24 receive four bonus points, and 25-33 earn three points.”
That’s plenty of reason for the action during quali at Indy to be exciting. Some questions, I guess, are:
Is it too much? Too many artificial elements?
And then the big one: Is there anything here that F1 should adopt?
And, is IndyCar staking a claim as the race- and fan-friendly open-wheel series — to F1’s loss?