The Fate of ...
The Fate of #98 - What Happens Now?
It's the question on everybody's minds. With the CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing team sitting on the 24th position of the starting grid and Bubble Day Qualifying still to come, what happens next?
It's more confusing than you can imagine, but we'll try to simplify it as best we can.
There are actually three options for next Sunday, May 19:
Option A -- It's a beautiful, sunny day. All activities continue as planned. The final nine spots in the 33-car field will be filed on Bump Day Qualifying, scheduled to start at noon (EST) and end at 7:00pm EST. Teams have drawn for a Qualification order for all cars still interested in trying for a spot. At this time there are 45 cars registered with qualification numbers. However, please note that there are more numbers drawn than cars that will actually attempt to enter the field. Some teams draw the number to use as a contingency, should they decide to enter their back-up car with a different driver or in case they get bumped from the field. Thus is the case of the #98T, which drew the 6th position, the team will not use the 6th spot, but will instead use it to hold a position open, should the need arise. Beginning at noon, cars will attempt to qualify to enter the field. Each car has three attempts -- you can "wave off" a time if you feel you can do better and try again with that car.
The first nine drivers to "take" their time, regardless of the speed, then fill the 25th --33rd spots on the grid. To further explain, if Driver A goes out and posts an average speed of 235 mph, he will still be placed in the 25th position on the grid, not in the pole position. If Driver B then goes out and posts an average speed of 224mph, he will be in the 26th position and so on.
Once the nine spots are filled and the grid is full, then the "bumping" begins. If the next car that goes out averages a speed faster than anyone of the 33 cars on the grid, the slowest car on the grid, no matter what position they hold, gets bumped out of the race. So for example, if the field is filled and Driver C goes out and posts an average speed of 226mph, Driver B from above (assuming he is the slowest of the 33 cars) will be bumped, despite the fact he's in the 26th position and others are below him on the grid.
Option B -- It rains all day. The 24 cars that are already on the grid are "locked in" at the position they hold. On the next clear day, the cars that have drawn numbers will each get one try (there will be no "waving off" of times) to qualify for the field. The nine fastest times of that group will be placed, in order of their average speeds, into the starting grid.
Option C -- There is rain in the morning but then the weather clears or vice versa (sunny in the morning but rain begins in the afternoon). The same schedule as Option A happens, but there is less time for cars to challenge the #98's hold on a starting position. Regardless of what the weather is or how far down the line they've gotten, the gun will go off at 6:00pm, signaling the end of qualifying. In that case, if they haven't gotten through the entire line of cars that have drawn for a position, as in Option B, the 24 already in the field will be locked in. On the next clear day, the rest of the cars in line to qualify will make an attempt, but they will only be vying for the remaining 9 positions. They will be competing only against those that were on the Bump Day qualification order draw sheet.
The worst-case scenario is that the #98 gets bumped from the field and Billy Boat will have to try and re-qualify with the #98T (backup car) and bump his way back into the field.
The best-case scenario for the CURB/Agajanian/Boat Indy Racing team is that it rains all day on Sunday, May 19 and the #98 is locked into the field, then and there.
In other words Billy Boat fans--start doing your Rain Dances now! We want it to pour in Indianapolis on Sunday, May 19.