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Friday, March 7, 2014
Indy 500 has new qualifying format

Associated Press

The new qualifying format for the Indianapolis 500 will include three rounds over two days, with the pole winner emerging from a Fast Nine Shootout on what used to be Bump Day.

IndyCar officials also said Friday there will be points incentives that have yet to be announced.

Will Power
The new qualifying format for the Indianapolis 500 comes as IndyCar struggles to fill the 33-car field.

Qualifying for the Indy 500 this year will begin on May 17, when the 33 fastest cars are locked into the field. All entries will be guaranteed at least one four-lap attempt to qualify, and the fastest nine drivers will advance to the shootout.

On Sunday, the previous days' times will be erased and entries 10 through 33 will complete four-lap qualifying attempts to determine their starting positions. The fastest nine drivers from Saturday will make one four-lap attempt to determine the pole winner and starting front row.

The Indy 500 has had four-lap qualifying runs since 1939. The pole shootout was introduced in 2010, but it was on a Saturday.

The change comes as IndyCar struggles to fill the 33-car field, making the once tension-filled Bump Day drama-free the past two years. Without additional entrants on hand trying to make the race, Sunday had become a glorified practice session.

By making qualifying stretch over two days, Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be relevant again.

"Fans get to watch their favorite drivers battle to make the field on Saturday, and then fight for pole position on Sunday," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman Motorsports.

It makes life a little more difficult for NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, who will attempt to become the first driver in 10 years to run both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Busch will now have to qualify in Indianapolis on Saturday, fly to Charlotte, N.C., for NASCAR's All-Star Race that evening, then return to Indianapolis to determine his starting spot in Sunday's qualifying session.

Under the old format, had Busch locked himself into the field on Saturday, he would not have needed to return to Indianapolis following the All-Star Race unless he was in danger of being bumped.

ABC will broadcast the final two hours of Saturday's qualifications and two hours on Sunday. Additional hours of qualifying will be carried on ESPN3, the network said.

"Down through history, qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 has made for many dramatic and compelling television moments, and we're confident that the leadership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar will continue that tradition with this new format," said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production.