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Ed Carprenter on Track /Photo by Steve Burzynski
Ed Carprenter on Track /Photo by Steve Burzynski
May 17th 2014 -
     INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA:  For the fifth straight day rain plagued practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway curtailing the much needed practice time for qualifications for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 set for tomorrow and Sunday.

     As was the case last year, cars were given an increase in boost pressure for qualifications and that increase was put into effect this morning and will last through Sunday’s qualifications and thus today’s practice was pivotal in the preparations for the actual qualifying runs tomorrow.

     The boost level today increased from 130 kPa to 140 kPa and that increase allows for about a 40 horsepower increase for the cars.  In lay mans terms it means about a 5 mile-per-hour increase in speed and that increase was added last year to try and build speed during qualifying to attract more fan interest.

     Rain fell over night and continued on and off during the morning with a heavy downpour that actually featured pea size hail near noon.   Track drying efforts were under way early on and continued on until the track was read for practice at 2:50 P.M. and James Hinchcliffe was first on the track.

     Hinchcliffe, who was cleared to drive late yesterday after suffering a concussion during last Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis, was eager get on the track not only to work with the adjusted boost but to get the feel of racing on the oval track again.

     28 minutes into the session rain began falling over parts of the Speedway and that turned into another full blown storm effectively ending practice for the day.

     168 laps were turned in during the 28 minute session with Hinchcliffe getting just 8 laps in.

     Helio Castroneves went 229.843 at the beginning of the session and that was hoped to be a forbearer of what was to come.  Soon after Ed Carpenter, the 2013 500 pole winner, went 230.522 and thoughts of a 232 or 233 mile-per-hour lap were realistic.

     But that all went away when the skies opened up again, so strong that there was no hope of getting the track dry any time soon.

     Marco Andretti, JR. Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Scott Dixon followed the top two and all very above the 229 mile-per-hour bracket.

     Lost today was practicing a four lap run with the new boost pressure so as to determine what to expect tomorrow for the actual qualifying session tomorrow.

     "This is the first time here that I do not have an idea of how fast I will be in qualifying tomorrow,” said Marco Andretti.  "The lack of practice means we will just have to go and post a speed, I don’t know if I could be on the pole or 15th, it’s just that different this year with such few practice laps.”

     Carpenter echoed Andretti’s opinion.  "We all have to wait and see,” said Carpenter.  "Tomorrow should be warmer and thus speeds could fall as the cool and clouds of the last few days are optimum for speed here.  We have to be ready for whatever faces us the next two days.”

     Actually the new qualifying format for this year could be the saving factor in all of this.

     Instead of being allowed three attempts as in the past, teams will now have as many attempts that they can get in during the 7 hour session tomorrow.

     "We may just use that first attempt to set the barometer,” said Marco Andretti.  "If it is good we move forward, if not, change and come back.  We have that extra luxury this 
year.”

     The Speedway opens for practice at 8:00 A.M. tomorrow so there is that additional practice with the amended boost but usually the A.M. practice is not a real indicator of how fast everyone is because it usually features cooler temperatures than the heat of the day.
     
     SATURDAY QUALIFYING RULES AND PROCEDURES:
     
     All entries are guaranteed one attempt to qualify between 11:00 A.M. and 5:50 P.M.

     The fastest 33 cars will make up the provisional field for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 based on the fastest four-lap average time.

     Teams can make multiple attempts.

     Once the qualifying session ends, the top 30 cars are locked into the field.

     However, all 33 cars must re-qualify on Sunday to determine the final starting positions.

     The fastest nine cars must re-qualify on Sunday to determine the Verizon pole position winner.

     Saturday will feature two qualifying lines at the end of pit lane:  Line 1 will have cars that are unqualified or have withdrawn their previous qualifying times, the line will have priority.  Line 2 will have cars that have already qualified but want another attempt and have not withdrawn their previous qualifying time.

     Multiple attempts are permitted without withdrawing a time by entering Line 2.

     Teams can withdraw their time and enter Line 1, which will have priority over cars already in the field.
    
     Teams that make multiple attempts can only improve their times if they have not withdrawn their time to enter Line 2, meaning, even if a driver records a slower four-lap average that driver’s previous (faster) time will stand.

     Points will be awarded at then of Saturday with 33 going to the provisional pole winner down to 1 for the 33rd starter.

     SUNDAY QUALIFYING RULES AND PROCEDURES:

     For positions 10-30, all Saturday times are erased and positions 10-30 will re-qualify to determine their actual starting position.

     Order will be the reverse of Saturday’s rankings.
 
     All cars will make one attempt.

     Line-up will be determined based on the fastest four-lap averages.

     In the event that there are only 33 cars entered, as is the case this year, this group will determine e positions 10-33.

     Group 2 positions 31-33 will not be needed this year

     Group 3, the top nine shootout will feature a reverse order of Saturdays fast nine with ninth going out first down to the fastest from Saturday.

     All cars will make one attempt.

     At the end of the sessions the cars are ranked 1-9 based on their four lap avbrge during the session with the fastest winning the pole.

     Additional points from 9 down to one are awarded on Sunday as a bonus for those to make the top 9.

     Confusing to say the least but it should be fun to watch.

     Hopefully the weather will co-operate tomorrow.