Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 14, 2014

DE LA BASTIDE: New twist to Indy qualifying


Kokomo Tribune

---- — Coming off a successful inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the focus of the open-wheel racing community turns to the Indianapolis 500.

Unlike in some previous years when there were doubts about 33 teams attempting to make the race, there likely will be bumping during qualifications this weekend.

Thirty-five teams practiced on Monday with teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti topping the speed charts. Hunter-Reay was the only driver to turn a lap at more than 225 miles per hour.

Helio Castroneves, Justin Wilson and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five.

Rookie Mikhal Aleshin was seventh quick at 223.120 mph followed by Kurt Busch at 222.77. Busch is looking to become the latest driver to run the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Charlotte on the same day.

The two days of qualifying, using a new format, should attract a lot of attention from fans.

The new format has the fastest 33 cars locking into the starting field on Saturday with qualifying taking place from 11 a.m. to 5:50 p.m.

Those times are erased on Sunday with drivers posting the 10th through 33rd times on Saturday running for their starting position from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The fastest nine drivers from Saturday will make the run for the pole from 2 to 2:45 p.m.

The Saturday qualifying session will be particularly interesting as teams will be looking to find enough speed to grab one of the 33 spots assured of making the Indy 500 field.

Aside from the accident at the start of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the race provided lots of side-by-side racing, a little bumping and banging in the corners, and fuel strategy making Simon Pagenaud the race winner.

Verizon IndyCar officials have been criticized for using a standing start for the race; something I hope is not changed in the future.

IN OTHER RACING NEWS

• There are already 29 teams entered for the 66th running of the Pay Less Little 500 on Saturday, May 24 at Anderson Speedway. The list includes defending champion Jacob Wilson and former winners Shane Cottle, Chris Windom, Jeff Bloom and Brian Tyler.

Drivers entered include Bryan Clauson, Bobby East, Tony Elliott, Shane Hollingsworth, Bobby Santos III, Aaron Pierce, Brian Gerster, Donnie Adams Jr., Travis Welpott and Shane Butler.

Speedway officials are expecting as many as 50 entries for the Little 500. Pole qualifying is Thursday, May 22 with the starting field set on Friday, May 23.

Open wheel action starts on Wednesday, May 21 with the Must See Racing Winged Sprints.

• The USAC Silver Crown division will be in action this Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway for the “Hall of Fame Classic” a 100-lap event starting at 9 p.m.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com.