Mar 7, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
A new qualifying format has emerged at the Indianapolis 500. And the pressure of one of motorsport’s greatest challenges has increased to go along with it.
As part of the new rules, every car in the field will now have to undergo the four-lap, 10-mile blitz around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at least twice.
And Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 National Guard Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, has acknowledged that the stress for drivers and teams is certain to rise.
“I can tell you the biggest sigh of a relief as a driver is when you got in on Saturday, and on Sunday you didn’t have to think about doing four more laps,” Rahal said during an INDYCAR teleconference today that featured Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker.
“Now we have to think about that all the time. I’m sure there’s going to be more tension, a bit more nerve-wracking for everybody involved. But that’s what it’s all about. That’s why these drivers and teams are the best in the world.”
Saturday, May 17 will see the fastest 33 entries qualify for the race, with the fastest nine advancing to the next day’s Fast Nine shootout for the pole position.
However, those Saturday times will be erased and entries in positions 10-33 will re-qualify on Sunday in order of the slowest to fastest Saturday times to determine their official starting positions.
The Fast Nine will then take place, with each entry in that shootout getting one qualifying attempt.
While Rahal says it’ll lead to more tension among the competitors, he is also cognizant of the ultimate goal that INDYCAR hopes to achieve with the new format: Bigger TV numbers and attendance at the Brickyard.
Bump Day activity on Sunday has been a lowlight of the Month of May in recent times, with no bumping achieved at all in the 2012 and 2013 qualifying sessions. The new format should, at the least, put some more excitement into Sunday.
“I think everybody [in the paddock] is going to be very supportive,” Rahal said. “Of course, there are traditionalists out there that believe we didn’t need to change anything.
“The one thing I do know about IndyCar drivers and the teams alike is everybody is supportive and behind Mark and Derrick, everybody making these decisions because we all want to grow the sport. We all want to see the fan base increase.”
As for giving teams enough time to practice on their set-ups for Race Day itself, Walker said that INDYCAR is working to ensure that teams will have time available for that purpose – adding that the series hoped to get a final schedule out to teams sometime next week.
“In terms of allowing or helping any teams that are trying to get in the show, we’re going to do our best to make sure there’s always available time for every competitor, and every competitor gets an equal attempt to get in the race,” he said.
Even with that assurance, the margin of error has now thinned even further with this new format. With Sunday no longer there as a safety net, drivers and teams must be quick from the get-go.
“I would say what they’ve done here has added a lot of pressure to everybody involved to make sure you’re on top of your game on both days,” Rahal said. “So there’s no fall-back plan on a Sunday anymore. You have to make sure you get it done right away.”
Apr 17, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
Ricky Taylor, Bill Auberlen secure pole positions for Round 3 of TUDOR Championship season in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Some good banter between Simon Pagenaud and Will Power occurs during post-practice press conference, as the two laugh off their contact here last year.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT
Power leads second practice in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Five in a row for the McLaren junior driver as he starts the 2015 season in style.
Apr 17, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Ferrari’s long run pace suggests that Mercedes may not have it all its own way on Sunday.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT
More from INDYCAR has been released regarding aero kit updates.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Red Bull Global Rallycross rolls out a series of announcements for media day, Thursday in Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT
Scott Dixon on top in opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Long Beach.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
A mixed day for both Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Apr 17, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Williams usually reserves its pace for Saturday, but Valtteri Bottas bucked the trend in Bahrain on Friday.
Apr 17, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT
Briton pleased with Mercedes work following practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.
Apr 17, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
He’s not the race defending champion, but as the most recent Long Beach winner still in the IndyCar field, Takuma Sato is indeed one to watch this weekend.
Apr 17, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
A busy night for the stewards in Bahrain due to two incidents at the end of FP2 on Friday.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:32 PM EDT
Rocky Moran Jr. to make IndyCar debut this weekend with Dale Coyne Racing in a last-minute fill-in role for Carlos Huertas.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT
Normal service is resumed in FP2 as Mercedes dominates proceedings, but Ferrari proves that it could be in the running for the race win on race day.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Picking a winner from the Team Penske quartet is always a challenge, but Simon Pagenaud has his best shot yet to break through this weekend.
Apr 17, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Max Chilton reflects on his new dual role with Carlin in Indy Lights, and a bit on his Nissan LMP1 role as well.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
Can Mercedes strike back in FP2? Or will Ferrari continue to lead the way in Bahrain?
Apr 17, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Finnish driver delighted with how things are going at Maranello in 2015, but says his future is down to the team.
- INDYCAR confirms more aero kit updates coming to Long Beach 0
- Rocky Moran Jr. to replace Huertas in Coyne’s No. 18 for Long Beach 7
- Rosberg heads up Mercedes one-two in Bahrain FP2 1
- Kimi Raikkonen quickest in first practice for Bahrain GP 2
- F1 Paddock Pass: Bahrain Grand Prix (VIDEO) 1
- 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview 0
- Preview: Anyone’s game as IndyCar heads to historic Long Beach 1