May 17, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
So, you’re wondering if Indianapolis 500 Pole Day still registers? Let me explain the ways it does.
- Pole at Indy gets you a week’s worth of media attention and spotlight usually reserved only for race winners. In some respects, pole at Indy gets more attention than some race wins over the course of the season.
- The format has changed to where you need to register not one, but at least two perfect runs to score the pole position.
- Every starting position pays points, which could make the difference at the end of the season.
- It’s the toughest 4 laps and 2 minutes, 40 seconds an IndyCar driver will do all year.
Here’s what you can see, with qualifying on Saturday on the NBC Sports Network at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET, and Sunday at noon ET. Qualifying will also be live streamed both days on NBC Sports Live Extra for mobile devices.
The build-up to Pole Day at Indy has been reduced in recent years, but come today, it’s all out preparation. One day of dialing in qualifying setups, thanks to the extra boost provided by IndyCar to the two engine manufacturers, will see the field truly “on it” for the first time all week.
The format of qualifying has evolved from where each car only had three attempts total for the month, to having multiple attempts per day. That may make it seem like there’s less pressure in that if you screw up, you have more chances to redeem yourself. But what it can do is amplify the pressure because you can take multiple shots at the pole, if you and the team so desire.
Qualifying begins Saturday morning and after several hours, the top 24 on the grid will be set and the fastest nine advance to a 90-minute shootout. There, all nine cars will have at least one attempt for the pole, slotted from slowest to fastest. And once they’re all through, if anyone cares to have a crack at P1, they can go for it.
And to explain the magnitude, again, of an Indy pole, look no further than last year’s polesitter, Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe almost certainly earned more attention on a national level for taking the pole here than he did for winning the race at Sonoma at August, which strangely, marks the last race a Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing-entered car won in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Briscoe should be among those with a chance on Saturday. He has the motivation of wanting to beat Penske, his former team, as he’s back in the Ganassi stable this month.
But when you factor in the quintet of Andretti Autosport drivers, the veterans from Penske and Ganassi, the rising stars of the sport like Takuma Sato, JR Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden or veterans like Tony Kanaan, Alex Tagliani and Oriol Servia, you suddenly have anywhere from 15 to 20 drivers who could contend for the fast nine. And from there, you have to boil it down even further to find a possible polesitter.
There are no guarantees. But there is prestige for whoever secures the top spot.
Rick Mears is perhaps the Speedway’s greatest master. He’s one of three four-time race winners, and a legend alone in qualifying as the only driver in history with six poles. In an interview he did with the IMS website in 2011 for its list of “The Greatest 33” in Indy history, he explained the magnitude of pole at Indianapolis.
“Qualifying at Indy is the pressure cooker of anything I’ve ever done,” he said at the time. “The race is 500 miles to get it sorted. But qualifying is intense – that is, if you’re in the hunt. You have to run four laps – not just the best of two. You’ve got four laps and there’s no doing it over. If you blow one corner, you’ve blown all four laps. That’s the pressure cooker, but I loved it. It’s the most pressure but the most fun. In the race, you just see what you have and then dial it from there.”
Mears is a champion, a gentleman, and perhaps the greatest sage when it comes to those four laps on Pole Day. Nail it right this year, and you’ll be entered into history among the greats on Saturday at Indianapolis.
NBC Sports Network’s Indy 500 Qualifying Coverage (subject to change, all times ET):
|Sat., May 18||Qualifying||11 a.m.||Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton|
|Sat., May 18||Qualifying||4:30 p.m.||Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton|
|Sun., May 19||Qualifying||Noon||Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton|
Mar 7, 2014, 9:12 PM EST
Vegas pole sitter Joey Logano also talks about the issue.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:03 PM EST
In the waning moments of the final round of qualifying, Logano ran a lap of 193.278 mph to take the pole from teammate Brad Keselowski.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:05 PM EST
“It’s not 100,000 from Las Vegas that will be sitting in these grandstands.” – KB
Mar 7, 2014, 4:55 PM EST
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver says that right now, he’s more focused on working with the new aero rules and qualifying format.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:20 PM EST
Crew chief Rodney Childers, driver Casey Mears, and the impact of the new rules package at Las Vegas are all part of today’s show.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:13 PM EST
Kurt Busch’s quest to become the first NASCAR driver in a decade to attempt the “Double” – racing in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, and then flying to Charlotte to compete in that evening’s Coca-Cola 600 – just became even more challenging.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:47 PM EST
Edwards and his Roush Fenway teammates pick up the pace after a slow Thursday test.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:43 PM EST
For the next month or so, don’t be surprised if Greg Biffle starts to act a little like Dracula — a good Dracula, mind you.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:30 PM EST
With a full-season ride in the NASCAR Euro Series, 33-year-old Mathias Lauda is set to add to his eclectic resume.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:12 PM EST
If you’re fortunate enough to spend any length of time around him, you’ll quickly find Matt Kenseth has a very dry wit. Think of a cross between comedians Steven Wright and the late George Carlin – just not so over-the-top as Carlin was.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
SBJ report says Verizon will back series for 10 years.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
“I’m sure there’s going to be more tension…But that’s what it’s all about. That’s why these drivers and teams are the best in the world.” – Graham Rahal
Mar 7, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Qualifying format change falls in line with other moves made by IMS/INDYCAR the last several months.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
Out go Korea and India, in come Austria and Russia, changes made to the running order, a different season finale – and a new night race!
Mar 7, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
With all but two teams making changes to their line-up and three new rookies, the F1 grid is looking very different in 2014.
Mar 7, 2014, 12:52 PM EST
TV times and talent for Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 in 2014.
Mar 7, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
What are going to be the main themes for the new Formula 1 season? Be it noses, double points, Bernie or Kimi, it promises to be an exciting one.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
F1 tire supplier confirms eight testing days with teams in 2014, thus avoiding the ‘testgate’ scandal of 2013.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:37 AM EST
Two attempts for Indy qualifying required: one to get in, one to set starting order.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
First target for Hulkenberg is to make it past the first lap at Albert Park, having failed to do so in three attempts.
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