I don’t think most fans completely understand the new qualifying format for Indy 500 Pole Day. To be honest, not many teams and drivers totally understand it either. But it should be interesting and hopefully fun on Saturday.
First of all, qualifying starts at 11:00 am. Each car can make up to 3 qualifying attempts until 4:00 pm. The Fast 9 move on to a pole shootout from 4:30 – 6:00 pm. The speeds are thrown out and each driver must requalify for the pole. Drivers can make two attempts.
But here’s an important subplot to the first qualifying session. The fastest car at 4:00 pm wins a very important first choice: pit selection. Pit selection might be more important to winning the race than starting position. So teams and drivers will be pushing just as hard for the top spot in the first session as the late afternoon shootout.
How many qualifying attempts cars will make is hard to say. There are several prizes to run for Saturday. The provisional pole in session one, plus the fast 9, and the 24 spots available on the first day of qualifying. How important are each of those prizes? And then comes the shootout. The fastest driver going in gets to pick when he wants to run in the shootout. Weather might be a factor on when a driver wants to go.
I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. But no matter what happens, anyone other than Helio Castroneves on the pole will be an upset.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
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