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.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.