Indy 500 pole qualifying overhauled for 2022

Indy 500 pole qualifying
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Indy 500 pole qualifying will have a new twist for 2022 with two rounds replacing the Fast Nine format of recent years.

The NTT IndyCar Series announced Tuesday that the first four rows for the 106th edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing will be determined May 22 after positions 13-33 are set May 21.

After the first day of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying, the 12 fastest drivers will have a guaranteed attempt to post a four-lap average for the pole position in the May 29 race (which will be broadcast on NBC). The top 12 session will begin at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.

INDY 500 PRIMER: Important details, schedule for watching on NBC

INDY 500 QUALIFYING: Click here for a graphical representation of the new format

The fastest six drivers will advance to the Firestone Fast Six at 5:10 p.m. ET to set the first two rows on NBC (the other six will slot in for the Rows 3 and 4).

The pole-sitter will receive $100,000, and 12 points toward the IndyCar standings. Points will be awarded in decreasing one-point increments for the top 12 (with second earning 11; third getting 10, etc.).

“We have an incredibly deep field heading into this year’s Indianapolis 500,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said in a release. “The timing is right to implement a new and dramatic way to expand one of the most intense weekends on our calendar. Winning pole position for the ‘500’ is an incredible feat, and with this new format, it will be even more challenging.”

If there are more than 33 entries in the event, a Last Chance Qualifying session for the three spots on the last row will be held from 2-3 p.m. ET on May 22. It’s expected that this year’s race could have a maximum of 33 entries.

“Indianapolis 500 qualifying weekend always is special,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles said in a release. “This format will give our fans even more opportunities to see IndyCar’s world-class drivers compete on racing’s biggest stage. While winning the race is the ultimate prize, capturing pole position for the ‘500’ is one of motorsports’ most prestigious honors and almost a race within a race. I cannot wait to see this expanded format on the final Sunday before Race Day.”

NBC will have live coverage of the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 29. The broadcast also will be on Peacock Premium and Telemundo Deportes on Universo.

For tickets to the Snake Pit festival, the Indy 500, the Carb Day Miller Lite concert or any practices and qualifying, click here to reserve a seat.

Here is the broadcast schedule for qualifying weekend (all times are ET):

Saturday, May 21

9-10:30 a.m.: Practice, Peacock Premium

Noon-5:50 p.m.: Indy 500 qualifying, positions 13-33, Peacock Premium

Sunday, May 22

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.:  Last Chance practice, Peacock Premium

12:30-2 p.m.: Top 12 practice, Peacock Premium

2-3 p.m.: Last Chance Qualifying (Positions 31-33, if necessary) Peacock

4 p.m.: Indy 500 top 12 qualifying, NBC

5:10 p.m.: Firestone Fast Six, NBC

Monday, May 23

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Indy 500 practice, Peacock Premium

For tickets to the Snake Pit festival, the Indy 500, the Carb Day Miller Lite concert or any practices and qualifying, click here to reserve a seat.

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

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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.