(Our resident IndyCar contributor Matt Lennon casts his eye on the goings-on in the lead-up to this year’s Indianapolis 500. With qualifying for the big race fast approaching, let’s have a look at some of the rule changes that are taking place…)
The month of May is always a high-pressure time in the IndyCar Series. All teams and drivers are busy preparing for the crown jewel in the season, the Indianapolis 500. Traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend, the event is the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
As the build-up to the event dominates so much of the month, qualifying takes place on the previous Saturday to the main race weekend.
Qualifying is a drawn-out process, as many private entries who cannot compete in the entire IndyCar season attempt to qualify for the Indy 500 only. There are eleven rows on the grid, and 33 grid positions available.
The main qualifying day is unsurprisingly called “Pole Day,” and in 2010 will take place on May 22. For 2010, an exciting new qualifying format has been announced.
Each car can make three qualification attempts. When a car completes a four-lap, 10- mile session, its best lap time becomes official, and the car may not re-qualify. In the event the car is bumped or is withdrawn, a driver may attempt to qualify in another car.
On Pole Day, the top 24 positions of the 33 available spots will be determined. From 11am to 4pm, each car will have three 4-lap attempts to set the fastest lap possible. The fastest nine drivers from this session will then have their times erased, as they will progress into a supplementary qualification session.
From 4:30pm to 6pm, these top nine drivers will each get two further 4-lap attempts, with the first nine positions on the grid decided from the fastest times set in this session.
As an additional incentive this year, the Peak Performance Pole Position Award Winner will earn a bonus of $175,000 and 15 points towards the IndyCar series championship.
The following day is affectionately known as “Bump Day,” and is the day when the final 9 grid positions are decided out of all the remaining entries. Any qualification attempt on this day that is faster than a qualified entrant in the 33 positions in the starting field will bump the slowest qualifier from the field, regardless of the day of qualification. Generally though, the cars that are participating in this session are not likely to trouble the cars in the front 8 rows and will normally occupy a spot at the back of the grid.
Bring on the month of May!