As entries for the next IndyCar season continue to come into focus, series president Jay Frye and his competition team have started to refine some of the changes that might be coming in 2022.
As RACER previously wrote, an anticipated rise in full-time entries has forced IndyCar to consider making modifications to its knockout-style road and street course qualifying system, and with more time dedicated to the topic, Frye says a formal switch to opening the sessions with three separate groups instead of two is getting closer to becoming a reality.
“An increased car count is a great problem to have,” Frye told RACER. “So how do we manage that? What does that look like? In knockout qualifying, where sometimes it’s too busy with cars on track, maybe there’s a way to have the same amount of cars on the track all the time. So say there’s 27 cars, you would have nine cars go out, three cars advance. You have nine more cars go, three cars advance, and then the last session where three cars advance.
“Then instead of having a Fast Six, you’d have a Fast Nine. So that also matches up with the Indy 500’s Fast Nine qualifying, and then we’ve got the 500 and the road and street courses are the same. There were times last year as we got up to 27 or 28 cars where the track was very busy in qualifying. I mean, very busy. So we want to get ahead of this and make it easier for our drivers to set their laps without being on top of each other.”
Frye has other procedural ideas for the 9/9/9 construct, which would adjust accordingly if 26, 28, or more entries needed to be divided by three.
“And then, each group after they go and if they’ve advanced, we’d impound those cars, right until the end, probably, have them all together for the Fast Nine,” he added. “We’ve done this a couple different ways last couple years, based off of the things that we’ve been dealt, like we shortened the overall length of the knockout qualifying process. We’ve had that the last couple years and like the faster approach, so we’re just looking ahead and figuring out how we should do it as the car count is expanding.”
IndyCar holds an annual offseason meeting with its drivers in Indianapolis; the 9/9/9 and switch from the Fast Six to the Fast Nine will be among the items presented to the group.
“This is a topic the team managers looked at in our last meeting, and in general, it makes great sense to us,” Frye said. “But we’ll run something like this by the drivers, too, because they’ll have a different perspective on it. We’ll see what they say, and then we’ll come back, create the process and the procedures so everybody sees how it is, so it’s very clear.
“And then we’ll send it out again, and we’ll say, ‘OK, this is the final procedure we’re going to use, go through one more time and shoot holes through it before it’s locked in.’ We always get great feedback from them, and we’ll change the procedures a little bit to make sure it’s the best we can come up with.”