The NTT IndyCar Series has made changes to its Indianapolis 500 qualifying format that will move settling its field of 33 entries from Saturday May 18 to Sunday the 19th.
Under last year’s format, the field of 33 was locked in on Saturday, bumping the 34th and 35th entries from further participation in the event. With the new format, IndyCar will lock in its fastest 30 cars on the opening day of time trials, then hold a special qualifying session on Sunday to complete its final row of three while bumping the remaining entries from the show.
IndyCar will continue its practice of using the fastest nine cars from Saturday to vie for pole position in another special session on Sunday, and for those who rank 10th to 30th on Saturday, their speeds will be final; those drivers will not re-qualify on Sunday.
The format changes give fans a Fast Nine Shootout and Last Row Shootout to look forward to as the 103rd Indy 500 field is set on Sunday during the 12-3 p.m. session. Once the field of 33 is determined, qualified entries will have a short break and then move into an open practice session that runs until 6 p.m.
“With this schedule, fans will get a phenomenal weekend of action, with two days of qualifying, bumping, the run for the pole and this incredible practice that effectively is the race before the race – all in a two-day span,” said IndyCar president Jay Frye.
In another carryover, points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers. The long Sunday practice session will influence IndyCar’s use of Monday as a long-form drafting exercise; with the 2h45m post-qualifying session in place, Monday’s running will be trimmed from the 3.5 hours made available last year to two hours on the 20th.
Saturday, May 18 (all times ET):
8-9:30 a.m.: Practice
11 a.m.-5:50 p.m.: Qualifying (order based on draw, top 30 locked in field at end of day)
Sunday, May 19:
10:15-10:45 a.m.: Fast Nine Shootout practice 10:45-11:15 a.m.: Last Row Shootout practice
12:15-1:15 p.m.: Last Row Shootout qualifying (order based on original draw, one attempt per car)
1:15-2:15 p.m.: Fast Nine Shootout qualifying (order based on Saturday times, slowest to fastest, one attempt per car)
3:15-6 p.m.: Open practice, all 33 qualified cars