Hypothetical: You’re sitting fifth after a four-lap run during the nine-car Pole Day shootout for the Indianapolis 500. If time allows in the 90-minute window, do you gamble to move up (you could also tumble) or stand pat?
Oh, the enticements include a $175,000 payout for the PEAK Performance Pole Award and paydays for the other front-row starters, IZOD IndyCar Series championship bonus points and, of course, the No. 1 position for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
That scenario – and others similar -- is possible under the new qualifying format May 22 for the 500 Mile Race. Sarah Fisher Racing's Jay Howard ceremonially submitted the first entry April 14, with more than four dozen more expected.
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). 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 driver’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.
“This new format for Indianapolis 500 qualifying will deliver even more action and intensity for fans,” said Jeff Belskus, president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. “Drivers will go all out during the first session on Pole Day to get a chance to make a run for the pole. Then they’ll need to dig even deeper to find the speed for the pole in the last 90 minutes.
“Plus 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 can’t wait to see it unfold.”
The winner of the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone will earn $175,000, an increase of $75,000 from 2009. The second-fastest qualifier will earn $75,000, with the final front-row starter earning $50,000.
Also coming into play will be championship bonus points. In a departure from the other 16 IZOD IndyCar Series races, in which the PEAK Performance Pole Award winner earns one bonus point, all 33 starting drivers will receive championship points. 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.
A pole start and third-place finish equals a race victory (in points) in the 16 other events.
“The rewards of the qualifying format help to make the Indianapolis 500 the most important race on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the sanctioning Indy Racing League. “Teams and drivers in the shootout will have to make a decision after their initial run in the ‘Fast Nine’ segment whether they want to attempt to move up on the grid with a final attempt. Not only would they potentially have a higher starting position, but they would accumulate more bonus points that could come into play later in the season in the driver championship.”
On Bump Day (May 23), the final nine spots in the field will be earned through traditional four-lap qualifying from noon-6 p.m. (ET). Bumping will begin once 33 cars have qualified.
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