The “Fast Nine Shootout” is no more, but the Indy 500 is set to determine the first few rows via a more intriguing method starting next weekend.
With the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race in the books, we can officially look toward the biggest race on the IndyCar schedule: the Indy 500.
Qualifying for the 106th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is scheduled to take place next Saturday and Sunday, but last month, there were a few changes announced to the format that had previously been utilized to determine the starting lineup for the field of 33.
Each driver is still set to make one four-lap qualifying attempt around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in Speedway, Indiana on Saturday afternoon, and then two lanes will open up.
There is one priority lane, a lane in which a driver must give up his previous lap time to go to the front of the line, and one regular lane, a lane in which a driver keeps his previous lap time but must wait until the priority lane clears before making another attempt.
But on Sunday, there is no more Fast Nine Shootout.
Instead, the top 12 drivers, not only the top nine, from Saturday’s session remain eligible to take the pole position for the following Sunday’s 200-lap race.
Those addition of those three drivers means twice the excitement, as there has been another Sunday session added. The top 12 drivers from Saturday each get another four-lap qualifying attempt, but this session isn’t for the pole position. Instead, the top six drivers advance from this session, and those six drivers battle for the pole position in the Fast Six, with each making another four-lap qualifying attempt.
The slowest six drivers from the Fast 12 line up from seventh to 12th place on rows three and four, and the six drivers from the Fast Six line up on rows one and two.
Points are awarded to these 12 drivers, starting with 12 points for the polesitter and dropping by one point per position down to one point for the 12th place qualifier.
This isn’t much of a change from the system implemented in 2018, when points were awarded to the nine drivers in the Fast Nine Shootout, starting with nine points for the polesitter and dropping by one point per position down to one point for the ninth place qualifier.
There is also a last chance qualifying session on Sunday to set the 11th and final row in the starting lineup for the drivers who finish in 31st place or worse on Saturday, but this session will only happen if there are more than 33 entries.
That isn’t the case this year, so the only Sunday sessions are set to be the Fast 12 and the Fast 6.
Regardless, all drivers who finish Saturday’s session from 13th to 30th place are locked into their starting positions. The same can be said for the drivers who finish from 31st to 33rd, provided there is no 34th.
Qualifying is set to be broadcast live on Peacock next Saturday and Sunday. NBC is set to broadcast the 106th running of the Indy 500 live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET next Sunday, May 29.