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April 14, 2010

Changes announced for Indy 500 qualifying

TERRE HAUTE — Tribune-Star staff report

Indianapolis

More changes have been announced for qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Speedway officials earlier said qualifying will be limited to one weekend with track time reduced for the May 30 race. The latest change includes a 90-minute Shootout period on May 22 for the pole and top nine spots.

The top 24 spots in the 33-car field will be decided in traditional four-lap attempts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each car will be allowed three attempts in that time.

Times of the top nine drivers then will be erased at 4 p.m. with all of those competitors assured of starting no worse than ninth.

A substantial increase in prize money also will be offered to the pole  winner, with money also awarded to the other two front-row qualifiers. IZOD IndyCar Series points also will be awarded after qualifying to all 33 drivers who earn a spot in the starting field.

“The Fast Nine” then will be required to make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt between 4:30 and 6 p.m. with one additional, optional attempt if time permits. Each driver’s best run during the 90-minute session will set their position within the top nine spots on the starting grid.

If inclement weather prevents the 90-minute shootout,  their times from the opening session will determine starting positions.

The final nine spots in the race field will be determined May 23, designated as Bump Day, with 40 driver-car combintions expected to vie for the 33 race spots.

The winner of the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone will earn $175,000, an increase of $75,000 from 2009. The second-fastest qualifier will earn $75,000, with the final front-row starter earning $50,000.

In a departure from the other 16 IZOD IndyCar Series races, in which the pole winner earns one bonus point, all 33 starting drivers will receive championship points.

The pole winner will receive 15 points, with the other front-row starters earning 13 and 12 points, respectively. Drivers in Rows 2 and 3 will receive, in descending order, between 11 and six points. Positions 10-24 receive four bonus points, and 25-33 earn three points.

“The rewards of the qualifying format help to make the Indianapolis 500 the most important race on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the sanctioning Indy Racing League.

The track will open for practice May 15.

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