Welcome to Bump Day at Indy
INDIANAPOLIS -RIS- (May 19, 2018) It's a weekend in May in Indianapolis, so that always means something is going on at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today, that means the first day of qualifying for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Nowadays, it's referred to as Bump Day, though in year's past the first day of qualifying used to be Pole day, as the polesitter for the Indy 500 had to qualify as fastest on the first day of qualifying to attain pole position for the race.
Though we haven't had more than 33 entrants attempting to qualify since the Centennial running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2011, this year a total of 35 car/driver combinations have entered. Because the Indianapolis 500 field is set at 33 cars, this means that two car/driver combinations won't make the show a week from Sunday.
So how does qualifying take place at Indy?
Indianapolis 500 qualifying consists of three or four sessions of time trials:
First-day Qualifying, scheduled 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. ET Saturday, May 19 – Determines the 33 positions in the provisional field based on the fastest four-lap averages. All entries are guaranteed at least one four-lap attempt to qualify, provided the car is properly and timely presented. No limit on the number of qualifying attempts an entry may make.
Group 1 Qualifying, Sunday, May 20 – Each entry in Group 1 must make one four-lap attempt, in reverse order of qualified positions from the previous day. The fastest qualifier in this session would earn the 10th starting position down to the slowest starting 33rd (barring any special session to determine starting positions at the rear of the field).
Fast Nine Shootout, Sunday, May 20 – The fastest nine cars from first-day qualifying will run in reverse order based on first-day times. Each car receives one guaranteed qualifying attempt, provided the car is properly and timely presented. At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-9 based on their four- lap average during the segment. The Indianapolis 500 pole winner is determined by the fastest qualifier in this session.
Last Chance Qualifying, scheduled Sunday, May 20 (if necessary and approved by INDYCAR, time TBD) – If any cars are unable to complete their guaranteed qualifying attempt during first-day qualifying due to a mechanical condition or accident, INDYCAR may approve a special qualifying session involving those cars and an equal number from the rear of the provisional field. For instance, if three cars were unable to complete their guaranteed attempt on the first day, with approval from INDYCAR, they would be permitted one attempt in the special session along with the three slowest cars from the provisional field. The fastest qualifiers in this session would determine the final three starting positions for the race.
The morning saw practice sessions available for all 35 entrants in two groups, but some chose not to participate - perhaps as a means not to show their hand too early on set-up options.
Qualifying is sceduled to start at 11:00 a.m. local time. Stay tuned.
Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992. He was invited to join the staff as a full-time reporter/editor in 1995, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.