Miles mulls potential Indianapolis 500 qualifying changes

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles filled out his executive leadership team on Thursday, and already the new hires C.J. O’Donnell and Jay Frye spoke optimistically about securing new sponsorship for IndyCar 2014.

Now, as part of Miles’ restructuring and attempts to rebuild the entire month of May, he has a potential idea for another set of changes to qualifying weekend for the Indianapolis 500.

The hat tip first goes to OpenWheelWorld.net contributor Steve Wittich for finding this on a Friday night, but Miles appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to discuss the mooted adjustments.

The two-day qualifying weekend as it currently stands, first instituted in 2010, has Pole Day on the Saturday and Bump Day the Sunday before the 500. On Pole Day, spots 1-24 are filled with the first three rows, positions 1-9, determined by a Firestone Fast Nine shootout in the afternoon. The polesitter is determined at the end of Saturday.

Bump Day fills spots 25-33, but for the past two years since the introduction of the new Dallara DW12 chassis and the new 2.2L V6 turbocharged engine formula, there has not been a single bump attempt. Engine manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet already add extra engines to their allotment for the ‘500; in 2012, some potential late entries were thwarted by a lack of engine availability while only one car, Michel Jourdain Jr.’s third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, missed this year’s race. And he never even got to make an attempt due to that car’s ill handling nature.

The net effect of that is that broadcasters have had to fill hours of airtime despite scarce on-track activity and limited drama. And Miles doesn’t want a wasted day of on-track action, so he’s outlined this potential plan on the show:

  • Saturday would see all spots 1-33 filled, but all qualifying speeds provisional and the order not finalized.
  • Sunday would see the order 1-33 determined, with spots 10-33 decided by a second day’s run and spots 1-9 again run in the final session to build the excitement for the pole position.

“We’re playing around with ways to make (qualifying weekend) more intriguing,” Miles said on the show. “Pole Day was Saturday and Bump Day was Sunday. We thought at this point that’s a little anticlimactic.

“In our mind, (this would) culminate at the end of Sunday, and I think that makes the two days even more competitive.”

Recent Indianapolis 500 qualifying procedures have included 11/11/11, with three days of 11 spots being filled before a Bump Day on the fourth day, from 2005 to 2009; a condensed three-day run was enforced from 2001 to 2004; it was Pole Day and Bump Day for two days from 1998 through 2000; and was four days prior to that.

No official confirmation has come from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or INDYCAR as to whether this idea will be implemented.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”