Mar 7, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
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.”
Jan 27, 2015, 2:05 PM EST
Former Sprint Cup champ finished sixth in first ‘500’ appearance last year.
Jan 27, 2015, 1:32 PM EST
One year after his last comeback effort fell short, Bobby Hamilton Jr. is back to try it again with Carter 2 Motorsports in a full-time ARCA season racing effort.
Jan 27, 2015, 1:15 PM EST
Sauber will have its new car launch on Friday, and also has confirmed HP partnership.
Jan 27, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
The 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule and race times was announced Tuesday.
Jan 27, 2015, 12:40 PM EST
Race times for the inaugural season of the new Xfinity Series were announced Tuesday.
Jan 27, 2015, 12:32 PM EST
Annett will bring his Pilot/Flying J sponsorship with him to HScott Motorsports, where he’ll team up with Justin Allgaier.
Jan 27, 2015, 12:15 PM EST
NASCAR releases start times for all 36 Cup points races plus Daytona 500 prelims, the All-Star Race, and the Sprint Showdown.
Jan 27, 2015, 11:54 AM EST
Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner says his team is working with Joe Gibbs Racing, countering claims Kyle Busch made about the collaboration between the teams.
Jan 27, 2015, 11:22 AM EST
Clint Bowyer said of his relationship with Jeff Gordon: “You’re never good with somebody when it got that ugly.”
Jan 27, 2015, 11:22 AM EST
NASCAR’s parent company, International Speedway Corporation, showed healthy growth in both the fourth quarter of 2014, as well as for the overall 2014 fiscal year, it was announced Tuesday.
Jan 27, 2015, 10:59 AM EST
Vickers will be back in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota at Las Vegas in March.
Jan 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
MWR test driver will compete in Vickers’ car at the second race of the 2015 Sprint Cup season.
Jan 26, 2015, 8:45 PM EST
NASCAR heavily is considering using the May 16 showcase as a trial run of the rules package for the 2016 season and has begun informing Sprint Cup teams of the possibility.
Jan 26, 2015, 8:33 PM EST
Quick recap for Day 1 of 3 in South Florida for the Indy Lights contingent.
Jan 26, 2015, 8:06 PM EST
Kyle Busch say that he doesn’t see Toyota partners Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing working closely together and that “we’re idiots” for not doing so.
Jan 26, 2015, 7:04 PM EST
Kyle Busch is not pleased with those who have confused him with his brother in reporting on Kurt Busch’s recent court matter.
Jan 26, 2015, 6:05 PM EST
Will its expansion help or hurt its hopes of a Sprint Cup title?
Jan 26, 2015, 4:54 PM EST
Which Joe Gibbs Racing driver will have the best season in 2015? Newcomer Carl Edwards, or Matt Kenseth, or JGR stalwarts Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin?
Jan 26, 2015, 4:38 PM EST
After last year’s exciting Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR chairman Brian France painted a very positive state of the sport Monday. There are still challenges, but NASCAR is working at fixing those.
Jan 26, 2015, 4:05 PM EST
NASCAR Chairman Brian France says series officials are not looking to eliminate the four-car limit for teams.
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