Q: As happy as I am we have bumping back at Indianapolis, I am a little worried that the format may make it too complicated or not as great as it could be. Like ,why are there two lines? What does “Last Chance Qualifying” in the rules even mean? Could you please break down the format for us, and share your opinions on it?
Also, the “Fast 9 Shootout” is just dumb; it sounds like something NASCAR would do. In 2014, Juan Pablo Montoya [above] ran a fast enough lap on Sunday that could have gotten himself pole, or at least Row 2, but he could only start 10th. If I am thinking correctly, they started this in 2014 to make it exciting, and yes without bumping it added something, but in years like this we simply do not need it. IndyCar really needs to rethink qualifying on road courses, too. The whole “Firestone Fast 6” round is pointless and a waste of tires. Why not just end it after Round 2? Also, it’s totally unfair that in Round 1 somebody in Group 1 could run a faster time than first in Group 2, yet not make it because they were seventh in their group. Do you see a solution to this, or do you think IndyCar thinks what it’s doing is fine?
Kyle Cuthbertson, or the Rahal Fanatic from Lucas, Ohio
RM: Here are the qualifying rules for 2018 at Indianapolis:
First-day Qualifying, scheduled 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. ET Saturday, May 19 – Determines the 33 positions in the provisional field based on the fastest four-lap averages. All entries are guaranteed at least one four-lap attempt to qualify, provided the car is properly and timely presented. No limit on the number of qualifying attempts an entry may make.
Group 1 Qualifying, Sunday, May 20 – Each entry in Group 1 must make one four-lap attempt, in reverse order of qualified positions from the previous day. The fastest qualifier in this session would earn the 10th starting position down to the slowest starting 33rd (barring any special session to determine starting positions at the rear of the field).
Fast Nine Shootout, Sunday, May 20 – The fastest nine cars from first-day qualifying will run in reverse order based on first-day times. Each car receives one guaranteed qualifying attempt, provided the car is properly and timely presented. At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-9 based on their four-lap average during the segment. The Indianapolis 500 pole winner is determined by the fastest qualifier in this session.
Last Chance Qualifying, scheduled Sunday, May 20 (if necessary and approved by INDYCAR, time TBD) – If any cars are unable to complete their guaranteed qualifying attempt during first-day qualifying due to a mechanical condition or accident, INDYCAR may approve a special qualifying session involving those cars and an equal number from the rear of the provisional field. For instance, if three cars were unable to complete their guaranteed attempt on the first day, with approval from INDYCAR, they would be permitted one attempt in the special session along with the three slowest cars from the provisional field. The fastest qualifiers in this session would determine the final three starting positions for the race.
Q: I don’t worry about teams and drivers getting bumped from the 500. They understand the risk. What does worry me is some of the new sponsors – particularly SalesForce – are getting into this because they want the benefits of being associated with an IndyCar team. They are not signing up for the risk of not making it on the 500 grid. Plus, getting those badly-needed new sponsors is key to them then wanting to come back and sponsor full-season teams. At a bare minimum, if bumping occurs, is there a way that IndyCar could guarantee that the sponsors who got bumped can still be on the grid in some way? We need SalesForce in this sport. We don’t want them getting turned off if JR Hildebrand gets bumped. Let’s find a way to keep them – and WIX, and whomever else – on the grid and in the sport.
Justin Brown, Louisville
RM: Well, first off, I don’t think J.R. is a candidate to get bumped, he’s always good at IMS and so is Dreyer & Reinbold. But, in years past, if a sponsor got bumped somebody was always willing to run it on their car, and I imagine that would still be the case.
Q: My solution to the question of more than 33 starters for the Indy 500 is to start the 34th and 35th cars from the pit lane after the green flag. The cars would have to sit in pitlane and not be involved in any of the pre-race ceremony on the grid, but they then get a sporting chance. If there is a first lap Turn 1 or 2 incident, they would be on the pit exit lane and thus avoid the incident, and be going much slower too.
David M-K, Ottawa
RM: I say if you’re going to start everybody, then treat ’em all alike. It’s not like they’re running for a bunch of money.