IRL: Indy 500: Qualifying format press conference, part 1

89th INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES Thursday, May 12, 2005 Brian Barnhart, Tom Anderson, Tim Cindric, Mike Hull BRIAN BARNHART: (President and chief operating officer, Indy Racing League): "Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 has ...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Brian Barnhart, Tom Anderson, Tim Cindric, Mike Hull

BRIAN BARNHART: (President and chief operating officer, Indy Racing League):
"Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 has evolved throughout the years, beginning with 1911 when the starting order was determined by the date when the entries were received for the event, and has continued to evolve throughout the years, and that continues up to the 89th running this May. In addition to the excitement and drama of going for the pole, determining the starting order, and of course the drama of bumping, there is a new format in place this year that we think is going to add to the excitement and drama for the qualifying format for this year's race, and that is that we are only going to take 11 cars --the 11 fastest qualifiers on each day -- for the first three days.

Pole Day will determine positions one through 11, second-day will determine positions 12 through 22, and the third day will determine positions 23 through 33. The fourth day will bump the slowest car regardless of the day it qualified. So what we are really trying to attempt to do (is) to increase the drama and excitement for the fans -- and give them what they want -- and that's bumping on each day of qualifying. So once we have 11 cars that accept times on Pole Day, we'll begin a bumping process on Pole Day. At the end of Pole Day, there will be only 11 cars in the field.

So you'll have the continued excitement and drama of going for the pole and the front row on Pole Day, but you'll also have the opportunity for bumping on Pole Day. So we're very excited about the format. We think it carries over a lot of the same traditions that exist. It also has some evolutions and twists. The cars will be allowed -- in the past they were allowed three attempts to qualify, provided neither of the first attempts were run to completion. Now they have three attempts per day, even if they run an attempt to completion. If the first run takes the checkered flag, that car can come back either by being withdrawn by the entrant or by being bumped out of the fastest 11. That same car-engine combination can come back and run later in the day, up to three times a day.

So theoretically, car No. 7 has three attempts on Pole Day, three attempts the second day, three attempts the third day and three attempts the fourth day. Obviously, that's 12 theoretical attempts per chassis out there. We're very excited; our thought process behind that is we're extending the life of the equipment, making more equipment available to the teams to participate.

Instead of putting the pressure on a team that has only one chassis and a couple of engines, now they've got three attempts on that chassis per day, even if they take the checkered flag, (then) get bumped out later, they can come back and try again. We think it's going to give the fans what they want, and that's some bumping on each of the four days of qualifying, returns us to our traditional four days of qualifying that we've had. In many ways it keeps the traditions alive but also it changes and adds some new twists and new challenges to the guys that sitting up here with me."

Q: After a qualifying run, I assume the cars will go through a post-qualifying inspection. How does that change? As you approach 6 p.m., in order for someone to have a chance if they've qualified second and want to go back out. Do they have to go through inspection or can they stay out and go back through the qualifying line?

BARNHART: "It brings up a detailed thought process by the (Indy Racing) League. In order for the drama and the strategies to play out that we have anticipated with this format, it's important for the League to make equipment available to these guys as quickly as possible, especially in the last hour or so of qualifying. So what we're going to do is a very traditional and normal post-qualifying technical inspection process for cars that qualify between noon and 4:45 p.m. Those cars will come down, if they've taken the checkered flag and they're in the fastest 11 at that time, they will pull into the photo area as they've traditionally done, then they'll go to the garage area and do a traditional post-qualifying inspection.

We will notify the teams in the qualification meeting tomorrow that if they qualify between noon and 4:45 p.m. and go through this process, they will need to anticipate it will be between 55 and 70 minutes before the car is made available again. So a car that qualifies at 3 p.m., that owner needs to know he will not get his car back until 4:10 p.m.

Any qualification attempts that take place between 4:45 and 6 p.m. that are completed runs, receive the checkered flag and move into the top 11 for that day, those cars will come down pit lane after completing their run, stop at the start/finish line in front of the Pagoda, and be immediately impounded. Those cars will then sit in pit lane right in front of the Pagoda, (and) once the driver gets out, the crew cannot touch them if they're in that fastest 11.

If they get bumped out of the 11, the owner and team can take that car immediately, go make changes and get back in line and start playing the game again. If they see they think they're going to get bumped and are sitting 10th after that run, and they don't want to wait until that physically happens, they can sign a withdraw sheet, withdraw that time and get that car back immediately. If they want to keep that car in the impound area and stay in the top 11 as long as they can, and play the game with the "T" (backup) car at the qualifying line, then the same rules and procedures apply that have traditionally been in place.

If Tim (Cindric) is in the impound area with car No. 3, and he comes across the tech line with car No. 3T, when that car gets to me at the head of the line, the same procedure that historically has been in place is still in place; I'm going to look at Tim and say: 'You make a choice. Are you withdrawing the speed of the No. 3 car and going out with No. 3T, or are you pulling out of line with the No. 3T and standing on your line with No. 3?' This is the same thing they've always been able to do.

Once a car gets into that impound area in the last 75 minutes, the owners have multiple choices again, taking consideration where they're at with the (fastest) 11 for that day, if they're going to play the game with the spare car, if they want it back right away to go change gears, they can withdraw the time, and they're out. If they want to wait to get bumped -- that's what we're talking about. This thing's going to have a lot of strategy and drama to it. That's our procedure.

Noon to 4:45 p.m. will be a fairly normal tech process. It will take 55 to 70 minutes for (teams) to get their cars back, from 4:45 to 6 p.m. we'll have an impound corral where the cars will be immediately impounded. Any car that's still in the top 11, when the 6 p.m. gun goes off, will then roll up quickly to do photos, then go through post-qualifying procedures after the track closes at 6 p.m."

Q: If that No. 3 car goes out at 5:10 p.m. and is third quickest, and comes down to the impound area and they decide they can run for the pole, and goes back in line with the same car, does that speed go out?

BARNHART: "Yes. He has to withdraw that speed to get that car out of the impound area."

Q: As long as you don't take a checkered flag on a run, is that not an attempt at all?

BARNHART: "That rule also has not changed. An attempt is defined by taking the green flag. We'll still do the same thing, an owner or team representative will go to the north end of pit lane with a yellow or green flag, second time by that team representative needs to hold up the green flag or a yellow. A green flag signifies the start of an official attempt, which they get three a day, a yellow flag or a 'no flag' is a non-attempt and they come back to the pit. So the definition of an attempt has not changed; it is taking of the green flag to start a qualification attempt."

Q: So even if you don't finish that run, it is considered an attempt for that day?

BARNHART: "Correct. And is unchanged from previous years."

Q: Can you stand on a time, from a previous day, on Bump Day if the field is not yet full?

BARNHART: "There is no standing on a time. If you are bumped out, then that time is wiped off the board. It is not held in reserve in any way, shape or form."

Q: This will provide some incredible drama for folks watching here in person, but for those folks watching at home, how do we (broadcasters) know when, say, Tim Cindric comes to you and says, 'I'm going to withdraw that car.' Is that something that's going to come from you or Tiffany (Hemmer, IRL director of administration), or for us to be able to tell people at home that someone has just withdrawn a car and then for us to watch the drama of that car being pushed back in line? Will they make an announcement here? What is the protocol to release that?

BARNHART: "The capability of withdrawing a car's time will be able to take place at two locations: at the impound corral, and at the head of the (qualifying) line, where I will be. If one of them (teams) fills out the form that withdraws that time, we will instantly announce that over our internal radios and we'll make sure the p.a. announcement is made immediately that that happened. We'll make the adjustment on all the scoreboards around the track to tell the fans what's going on."

Q: What signs do you have to tell you that there will be anything left to do on Bump Day, given that, according to my calculations, it looks like we have 32 car-driver combinations right now, maybe a 33rd? And also, if more cars and equipment are available with the new format, do you really sense that teams will really make equipment available?

BARNHART: "The whole format creates a platform for increasing the likelihood of those scenarios developing. They've always existed in the past, but there was so much difficulty in getting people to use cars that are available, and I think the format will make that more likely to happen, to have the same traditional last-weekend deals come in play. As we're sitting here talking, we haven't even come to the first weekend yet, and we've got more car-driver combinations than we've had the last couple years. So I feel very good about the same historical last-minute deals coming in play. These rules make that easier for that to happen."

Q; If the weather on any of the first three days restricts attempts to less than 11, will that day carry over to the next day before you start the next day's official qualifying, or how will that work?

BARNHART: "We're capable of making a good decision with the officials of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I think we need to take into consideration that there are so many factors in that hypothetical. Have we had a break in the line yet? Have we not had a break in the line? The easiest way to say it is, if we've had a good-weather day and we've qualified for six hours from noon to 6 p.m. and we did not have 11 cars accept times, say we only had nine cars took a checkered-flag run, then two spots would carry over into the next day, and we'd qualify 13 cars on that day instead of 11. The other scenarios are difficult to get into. If you've had a full day of qualifying, for six hours, you'll be hard-pressed to not have 11 guys complete runs."

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tom Anderson , Mike Hull , Brian Barnhart
Teams HART