Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fast Facts: Qualifying for the Indy 500


In NASCAR, qualifying for the Daytona 500 is an event unto itself. The same can be said about qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, the premiere race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. The procedure has changed over the years, so here’s a primer on what to look for in Indy 500 qualifying, taking place Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, 2012.

  • The current four-lap (10 miles) qualifying distance was introduced in 1920, and has been used every race year since 1939. The qualifying speed is based on an average of the four laps.
  • Each driver gets three attempts to qualify. If a qualified driver wishes to make another attempt at a faster time, the initial time must be withdrawn and counted against the three attempts. Qualifying runs can also be called off, and will be counted against the three attempts.
  • There are two days of qualifying for the Indy 500. On Pole Day (day one), the top 24 spots are available, with spots 25 through 33 being filled on Bump Day (day two). Any driver qualifying on Bump Day will line up behind the top 24, even if their average speed is faster.
  • The nine top qualifiers on Pole Day, referred to as the “Fast Nine,” will have their original qualifying speeds erased at the end of the session and re-qualify in a 90-minute shootout, with each driver required to make one four-lap qualifying run (additional attempts can be made if time permits). The “Fast Nine” will line up based on these speeds; these nine drivers are guaranteed starting spots in the top nine, even if they cannot complete qualifying due to mechanical problems or crashes.
  • For additional information on qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, check out this feature on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website from 2010, when the new procedure was introduced.
Image: NASCAR Media

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