A Qualified Success

The Indy Racing League will employ a unique and entertaining road course qualifying procedure for the first time to determine the Marlboro Pole Award winner for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend.

Unlike the oval events on the IndyCar Series schedule, practice will play a key role in determining the starting field at the three road and street course events on the 2005 schedule.

“We tried to come up with a scenario that places an emphasis on each session having meaning toward the next session, and each day having meaning toward the next day so that you're not just running around and practicing on Friday without any meaning or repercussions to your performance,” IRL President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Barnhart said.

Under the road course qualifying procedures, all cars will participate in the opening two-hour session of practice (10:20 a.m. Friday). The performance based at the end of that session will determine the groups for split practice sessions Friday afternoon (2 p.m. Friday).

The combined Friday practice times will determine the event qualifying order, with the driver posting the fastest combined time from the first day of practice having the option of driving first or last in single-lap qualifying (2 p.m. Saturday).

“One hour before qualifying, the fastest driver from Friday will make a determination whether we will do an inverted slowest-to-fastest order or if we'll go in a straight-up order fastest to slowest in single-car qualifying,” Barnhart said. “His reward for being fastest on Friday is he gets to choose whether he wants to be first or last.”

At the conclusion of single-lap qualifying there will a 10-minute break for adjustments, then the fastest six cars will participate in a 10-minute, European-style session designed to give each car the opportunity to better its qualifying time. Cars will be spaced in 10 to 15-second gaps on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.

“The top-six times from the individual lap time will carry over, but they will get 10 minutes and multiple laps to try and improve their times and try and readjust the running order first through sixth,” Barnhart said.

“Starting position is very critical on temporary circuits, street circuits and road courses. We wanted to put some emphasis on qualifying and create some challenges to get some separation and let the cream come to the top and get it to the point where the pressure is on, the drama is exciting, you can't make a mistake.”

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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