Indy 500 Qualifying Format Changes Announced

By Tony Donohue
April 26, 2022
PHOTO COURTESY OF INDYCAR

It has been a wait and see approach for IndyCar, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its fans on the schedule for on track activity at the world's greatest racecourse. With 32 drivers currently announced to enter the race, the waiting game continues for a 33rd and possibly a 34th entry. Stef Wilson and Charlie Kimball seem to be in the driver's seat to get the 106th running of the Indy 500 to 33 starters. Rumors of a few other drivers having the funding to run seem to be a ways away from completion. In the wake of a max of 34 entries, IndyCar has made some tweaks to qualification procedures for qualifying weekend May 21st and 22nd.

All drivers will qualify on Saturday setting positions 13-33, or 13-30 if 34 cars are entered into the race. If there is no bumping, spots 13-33 will be locked in with the Top 12 requalifying on Sunday. The 6 fastest drivers in that Top 12 will again qualify, similar to road and street course qualifying. The fastest of those “Fast 6” qualifying runs will start from the pole position at the Indianapolis 500. If 34 drivers are entered, against my belief, spots 31-34 will requalify prior to the “Fast 12”. The 34th fastest driver will miss the show.

The second most asked question outside of the 33rd entry is whether or not IndyCar will practice on Sunday after qualifying or the following day on Monday. The answer is yes, on Monday from 12-2pm. This practice has been one of the best practices in all of racing as teams and drivers try to dial in their race car. Yes, Carb Day is the final practice, but that is mostly used for pit stop practice and in and out laps. Fans will be allowed into the speedway for the Monday practice.

This will lead to plenty of drama come Saturday of qualifying. Positions 12 through 20 in qualifying back in 2020 were separated by seven tenths of a mile an hour. If the weather or wind didn’t play into your hands early in the day, we may see more drivers try to crack into that top 12 to have a chance. If you’re sitting 20th and know you can go faster, you might take the chance to go out and find yourself in the Top 12 going into Sunday knowing the lowest you will start is 12th. Assuming only 33 entries in this year's field, I think this brings more drama throughout the field where there won’t be as much for that back row. I hope they still give points to the Top 12 starters of the Indy 500, which is also a huge incentive for full-time drivers to move their way up the starting grid. I am a big fan of the final practice on Monday, which has proved in the past to be the best practice of the month. I selfishly wish it was more than two hours!

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