Indianapolis 500 qualifying overhauled; bumping to Sunday

Indianapolis 500
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In a move hailed as enhancing the drama of making The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the 103rd Indianapolis 500 will determine the field of 33 and pole position consecutively.

IndyCar announced Thursday that 30 positions will be locked in during nearly seven hours of qualifying May 18, which won’t be a traditional “Bump Day” (as the Saturday of qualifying weekend was last year).

On May 19, the 2.5-mile track will feature an hour of practice for the fastest nine cars and the cars that haven’t secured a top 30 speed. In an hour-long session beginning at 12:15 p.m., each unqualified car will get one attempt at filling one of the final three spots in the field.

Because more than 33 cars are expected to qualify, the session should feature the bumping of cars from the field that has made it a tension-filled exercise. (Last year, fan favorite and 2016 pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe failed to make the race).

After the last row of three cars is set, the Fast Nine shootout for the pole will begin at 1:15 p.m. The order will be based on Saturday times from slowest to fastest with each car having one attempt.

NBC will televise qualifying for the pole position and the last row from noon-3 p.m. May 19. The coverage then will move to NBCSN for a three-hour practice session that is expected to feature cars in race setup and running in packs as an Indy 500 preview.

“With this schedule, fans will get a phenomenal weekend of action, with two days of qualifying, bumping, the run for the pole and this incredible practice that effectively is the race before the race – all in a two-day span,” IndyCar President Jay Frye said in a release.

NBC will televise the Indianapolis 500 for the first time on May 26, the centerpiece of its first full season of NTT IndyCar Series coverage.

The 2019 season of 17 races will begin March 10 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Here’s a recap of how qualifying will work:

Saturday, May 18

  • Positions 10 through 30 in the Indianapolis 500 field will be decided, as well as Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout that will determine the pole position. Each entry is guaranteed one attempt and multiple four-lap runs may be made as time permits
  • Cars in positions 10 through 30 at the end of the session will be locked in and won’t requalify Sunday

Sunday, May 19

  • Those outside the top 30 will compete to make the last row, positions 31-33
  • The Fast Nine Shootout will determine the pole position