Drivers set for further journey to Edge in new qualifying format
This weekend, the field for the 106th race of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will be defined in a new way as an exciting qualifying format debuts for PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying, and the drivers are amplified.
The format for Saturday May 21 will remain relatively the same as the full field gives their all for the most daunting qualifying session in motorsport – a 10-mile race and four laps on the edge. The wind and heat of the Fast Friday practice showed that the weather conditions made these qualifying attempts even more difficult.
On Saturday, positions 13 to 33 will be defined and these drivers will not requalify on Sunday May 22. On day two of the PPG Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend, the top 12 drivers will qualify in order of Saturday’s times, slowest to fastest. The fastest six advance to the Firestone Fast Six to determine positions 1-6, including the NTT P1 Award for pole.
TO SEE: Qualification format | Qualification Draw
For the fastest drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that means an extra qualifying attempt is on deck to become an Indianapolis 500 pole sitter. While that means added excitement for fans in attendance and watching in live on NBC (Top 12 qualifying starts at 4 p.m. ET Sunday), many drivers are eager for a new challenge.
“To be honest, I like the idea of seeing the faster cars once again,” said reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou, who crashed in qualifying last year with the #10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. “For the rider, we put everything on the line.
“You go for the Fast 12, and if you get there, you risk it a bit for the Fast Six. If you’re in the Fast Six, you say, “Hey, I’m going to risk everything I have. I think it’s cool for the fans, and I think it could be cool for the drivers if all goes well.”
For Indy 500 rookie Romain Grosjean, qualifying the #28 DHL Honda will be a whole new experience, and it will be the fastest race he has ever driven in his career. The fastest he had gone in a race car before May was around 226mph in the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix.
“I think it’s cool,” he said. “It’s the fastest you’re ever going to do, and racing drivers like to go fast. Yes, for these four rounds you need a tight ass.
Indianapolis 500 qualifying is one of the true tests between rider and machine. For about two and a half minutes, it’s just a driver seeing how far he can place his car without running out of space.
And that pure racing mentality is something 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi embraces on one of his favorite weekends of the year.
“I would do it six times,” said Rossi, who drives the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. “It’s good for me. I love qualifying here. It’s another chance to do it and another chance to take risks. It’s really cool.”
Three-time Indy 500 poleman Ed Carpenter noted how unique it is that drivers who finish in the top 12 and the Firestone Fast Six will have to make qualifying attempts fairly close together in time. Normally, this is a situation that occurs when a driver is about to cross a boundary line during Indy 500 qualifying.
While exciting for racing fans and, to some extent, drivers, Carpenter expects it to add another layer of nerves to an already stressful weekend as he drives the Chevrolet Alzamend Neuro #33.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, trying to figure out exactly what it’s going to look like. The conditions and the balance of the car will determine how stressful the second round is.
Colton Herta, who won the GMR Grand Prix last weekend at the IMS road circuit, said he knew the new format would add an exciting element to qualifying. However, as one of the pilots involved, he does not look forward to stress. Plus, he doesn’t want to give his competitors a chance to catch up.
“I liked only doing it once because now it gives everyone a chance to catch up and get out of their finishing level,” he said. “It will be more exciting. Sometimes it’s boring when it was the Fast Nine and you see everyone racing once.
The Armed Forces PPG Qualifying Weekend begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (ET) with two 30-minute practice sessions, followed by qualifying at 11 a.m. All the action from Day 1 can be seen live on Peacock Premium and heard on the INDYCAR Radio Network.