SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Qualifying will be a little different this year for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Over the last decade, qualifying has taken place the weekend prior to race day on Memorial Day weekend. Qualifying will take place Saturday, May 21st, and Sunday, May 22nd.
On that Saturday things will proceed as normal, all 33 planned entries for the race will get unlimited attempts to qualify their cars starting a Noon with each driver getting at least one attempt before teams can take more attempts until 5:50 p.m.
Day Two of qualifying that following Sunday is where many of the changes will take place.
The fastest twelve drivers, or the “Top 12”, from Saturday will have a chance to make a run for the pole position. That’s a change from recent years when only the fastest nine drivers competed for the pole known as the “Fast 9”.
Another tweak, race directors are adding an additional round for pole qualifying. The fastest twelve drivers from Saturday will each get their one guaranteed run on Pole Day, with the fastest six drivers of those twelve runs advancing to the “Top 6″. Those fastest six drivers will then get another guaranteed run to try and secure the pole.
“We have an incredibly deep field heading into this year’s Indianapolis 500,” said 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.”
As for the rest of the drivers who are not among the Top 12, they will not get another chance to improve upon their time on Pole Day.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also says if they get more than 33 entries for qualifying, they will add a Last Chance Shootout for the Row 11 (positions 31-33) for early afternoon on Pole Day.
“Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend always is special,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said. “This format will give our fans even more opportunities to see INDYCAR’S world-class drivers compete on racing’s biggest stage.”
Here is a synopsis of the qualifying schedule:
Saturday, May 21
9:00 a.m – 10:30 a.m.: Pre-Qualifying Practice
Noon – 5:50 p.m.: Indy 500 qualifying: setting positions 13-33 (or 13-30 if more than 33 entries)
Sunday, May 22
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Last Chance Practice (If necessary)
12:30 p.m – 2:00 p.m.: Top 12 Practice (fastest 12 cars from the day before)
2-3 p.m.: Last Chance Qualifying (if necessary): Positions 31-33
4:00 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Top 12 Qualifying (guaranteed one run for each of the 12 drivers).
5:10 p.m.: Firestone Fast Six qualifying (fastest six drivers from the Top 12).