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

Montoya never recovered the points loss after May. Getty Images
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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:

GOOD

  • 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)

BAD

  • 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.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds