News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Auto Racing

May 21, 2010

Indy rolls out Pole Day changes today

INDIANAPOLIS — Pole Day will take on a whole new meaning today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In one of the biggest changes to the Indianapolis 500 to date, drivers, teams and fans are anticipating an electrifying day.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., each car will have three attempts to make the best four-lap qualifying average possible for positions 1-24. At 4 p.m., 24 slots will be filled, but the fastest nine cars will go on for “shoot-out” qualifying from 4:30-6 p.m. Each driver’s time will be erased from the board, and the driver will then have to make at least one more attempt during that time for the pole position.

“They’ll need to dig even deeper to find the speed for the pole in the last 90 minutes,” said Jeff Belskus, president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Three-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves felt that his team was prepared. “I’m just going to go and drive. I’ll be prepared. But we can’t take it for granted. Ganassi, Andretti and even other teams might as well take a chance. We’ve got to be ready, and I think this team is well prepared for that.”

Tim Cindric, President of Penske Performance, felt that time management on Pole Day was vital. “In year’s past you determined when you were going to run throughout the day.

“You see us get in line, pull out of line, whereas tomorrow is going to be a bit more dedicated in terms of the time limitations that you have throughout the day.”

“I’m looking forward to the new format. It’s not a big change for me because I’ve never really been in the position to challenge for the pole. So I think it will be exciting for the fans,” said Will Power. Power has three poles this season, but all came on road or street courses, St. Petersburg, Barber and Long Beach.

Chip Ganassi, owner of Target Ganassi Racing acknowledged the stress level will be high for qualifying. “Right now our focus is on qualifying. If we’re going to focus on qualifying, let’s focus on the pole. If we’re not focused on the pole, we wouldn’t focus on qualifying.”

Ganassi set up two scenarios he sees happening Saturday. Obviously session one, but most importantly right before 4 p.m.. “I think there is going to be a big race for the last spots, one, two three spots at the end.”

“Qualifying, I think,” said Dario Franchitti, “it’s going to be more difficult with this new format because anytime you go out there in qualifying trim, you’re absolutely on the edge for those four laps. [Saturday] upwards of three, four times probably.”

Another change announced Thursday was that choice of pit assignments will be determined by the earlier session. Since pit location is so vital during the Indy 500, drivers will need to go all out in session one. “The number one pit is so important in this race, so we’re really going to be putting pressure on ourselves to be sure that you can be the quickest in the first session,” said Team Penske owner, Roger Penske.

Ganassi summed up his feelings about will have happened at the end of Saturday. “You’re going to need all four aces in your hand tomorrow at 6 p.m.. Whoever has those four aces is going to have earned something. He’s going to have earned something because he’s going to have to have played his hand all day very well.”

This year’s pole winner will collect $175,000 in PEAK Performance Award money, an increase of $75,000. The other two front-row starters will earn $75,000 and $50,000 respectively.

Differently than other races, where the pole winner earns one championship bonus point, all 33 starters will receive points. Fifteen go to the pole winner, second will receive 13 and the third starter will receive 12. Drivers in row two and three will receive in descending order 11-6 points, while positions 10-24 receive four and the 25-33 slots will receive three points.

Should weather become a factor and the shoot-out is not completed, the top nine retain their original grid slots. If a car crashes during the final qualifying period, that car would start ninth, or if two cars were to fail to complete the run due to crashes then those cars would start eighth and ninth, respectively reverting back to their times in the first session of the day.

Drivers were able to spend about four hours running qualifying set ups before the rains came around 4 p.m. Castroneves topped the chart with a 226.558, while teammate Power was slightly slower at 226.429. Alex Tagliani was third fastest again with a 226.153, and Scott Dixon was fourth with  225.828. Mario Moraes rounded out the top five with a 225.806.

Traditionally on Fast Friday, BorgWarner awards the Louis Schwitzer Award. The 44th annual award went to Mezzo Technologies and Andretti Autosport for developing the Mezzo MicroChannel Radiator.

It is designed to fit in the same space and use the same connectors as existing radiators, but significantly reduces coolant temperature. The IndyCar Series has approved this technology for use by all teams, and is being evaluated for use by other racing series and the aviation industry.

The MicroChannel Radiator reduces engine temperatures up to 8 degrees Celsius (14 degree Fahrenheit).

Pole Day gates open at 7 a.m. today, followed by two hours of practice at 8 a.m. The first session of qualifying begins at 11 a.m. The “Top Nine” shoot-out begins at 4:30 p.m.

Rocker Eddie Money performs live on the Coca Cola stage at 4:30 p.m..

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