Montoya never recovered the points loss after May. Getty Images

Indianapolis 500’s total points can shift your season, good or bad

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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s no secret the Indianapolis 500 is the Verizon IndyCar Series’ biggest race.

It can make or break your career – look at how two laps decided the 2011 and 2016 Indianapolis 500s. Where would JR Hildebrand and Alexander Rossi’s respective careers be if the last laps didn’t play out the way they did?

What it also does in an in-season standpoint is drastically alter the championship, because with double points for the race and nearly a full race of points on offer for qualifying, it can produce some seismic swings in the championship.

To wit, here’s three good and three bad outcomes for drivers from last year’s Indianapolis 500 results:


  • Alexander Rossi (Winner): Post-Indy GP, 17th in points (79 total), Post-Indy 500, 6th in points (203 total, 124 at event)
  • Carlos Munoz (Second): Post-Indy GP, 15th (84), Post-Indy 500, 7th (199, 115)
  • Josef Newgarden (Third): Post-Indy GP, 12th (100), Post-Indy 500, 4th (211, 111)


  • Juan Pablo Montoya (33rd): Post-Indy GP, 3rd in points (160 total), Post-Indy 500, 10th in points (187 total, 27 at event)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (24th): Post-Indy GP, 9th (109), Post-Indy 500, 13th (162, 53)
  • Conor Daly (29th): Post-Indy GP, 13th (88), Post-Indy 500, 19th (108, 20)

Rossi, Munoz and Newgarden eventually ended the year 11th, 10th and fourth in points, so while they dropped a bit from where they were at time of their top-three finish in the Indianapolis 500, it still produced a net benefit to their season.

The other three? Montoya needed a third place at Sonoma, also a double points race, to springboard back from 14th to eighth, while Hunter-Reay (12th) and Daly (18th) each only moved up one position the rest of the season.

The single most fascinating stat between Rossi and Daly is that in the two double-points races, Rossi scored 184 points (first and fifth) and Daly scored 38 (29th and 21st).

That 146-point gap from two races singlehandedly swung the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year honors to Rossi, as the overall gap in all 16 races was 117 points (430 to 313), meaning Daly scored 29 more points in the other 14 single-points races.

Simply put, a great month of May can do wonders for your season as a whole, and a bad one can put pause to it.

Box scores from last year’s Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 are linked below so you can see who moved where within the one-race span.

It’s also worth noting that Simon Pagenaud, who had electrical gremlins sabotage his Indianapolis 500, was lucky to escape the double points race and qualifying still with a points lead despite a 19th-place finish. Yes, his lead was cut from 76 to 57 points, but no one got within 20 points of him the rest of the way, and that was key to his eventual run to the championship.

Here’s the box score from this year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix, to give an idea of points heading into the Indianapolis 500 qualifying and race sessions.

So at the Indianapolis 500, you can score a maximum of 145 points (winning, 100 points, leading one lap, 1 point, leading the most laps, 2 points, and scoring pole position, 42 points) and a minimum of 11 points (finish 25th to 33rd, 10 points, and qualify 33rd, 1 point).

Saturday’s qualifying sets the Fast Nine runners for Sunday, but it does not set the actual grid itself, nor does it award points.

That all comes Sunday, with runners 10-33 qualifying first and then finalizing their grid positions, before runners 1-9 do so in a one-run only shootout to determine the pole winner.

Per INDYCAR’s rulebook, here’s the points breakdown for this race and qualifying, below:

Also, entrant and driver points will be awarded for Indianapolis 500 qualifying based on final qualifying results as follows:

  • The fastest qualifying entrant and driver (pole sitter) will receive 42 points, second fastest will receive 40 points and points awarded will decrease by two-point increments down to 10th fastest (24 points). Starting with 11th fastest (23 points), each succeeding qualifying position will decrease in one-point increments down to one point for 33rd position.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”