INDIANAPOLIS – Entering today’s opening day of qualifying for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, most of the fans were confused on what the format was.
Only the top nine drivers were guaranteed today as the everyone would have to requalify on Sunday.
Most thought, what was the point? Why risk it if there’s no big reward?
KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais agreed with you.
“It’s no different expect you’re not exposed to being taken out,” Bourdais told me. “If you’re not going to make it in the Fast Nine there’s no point in even trying.”
Despite what he said, some of the the drivers actually liked it. In fact, after the day officially was over, I think it worked out perfectly.
“I like it,” Simon Pagenaud told me about the new format. “I think you’re qualifying for two segments. You’re main goal is getting into the top nine. I like it. The fans get to see the cars more on the track so I think it’s a good thing. It’s stressful. There’s a serious strategy game.”
Josef Newgarden echoed his statement.
“I like it too,” said Newgarden after his run. “I think it’s a shootout today and a shootout tomorrow. It’s kind of fun for me and the fans too.
When I told him what Bourdais said to me, Newgarden said, “I agree kind of with what he told you, but it’s entertaining for guys trying to get into the top nine. It’s exciting because there’s more than nine guys that are capable of making it in.”
Several more drivers agreed with their assessments, as they knew this would play out the way it did.
The extra hour added to the end of the day allowed the track to cool down enough to allow quicker speeds. Mix that with the wind speed calming down, it allowed for several hot laps and even more bumping inside the top nine.
Seven times someone improved their speed and bumped their way into the Fast Nine during the final 90-minutes of qualifying, as it added excitement and edge of your seat moments.
That’s what qualifying is all about as I’d say the new format was definitely a win.
Drivers are competitive. If you give them a sniff of being in top nine and fast for the potential top speed today, you’re going to take it.
The last three runs allowed a driver to bump his way in.
That’s what it’s all about.