Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Rules
as of 2014

A new point system for qualifying was created in 2014.

On Saturday, the first day of qualifying, 33 points
will be awarded to the fastest qualifier down to one point for 33rd.

On Sunday, the 2nd day of qualifying, nine points will be awarded to the Pole
winner down to one point for ninth in the Fast Nine Shootout.

A driver/entrant that sweeps both the top spot in both sessions will have 42
points deposited in the full-season championship before starting the race.

(The winner of the Indy 500 gets 100 points.)

Pits: Pit selection for the race -- an important and prized commodity -- will be
reflective of starting position determined May 18.

Prestige: The Verizon P1 Award winner will received a $100,000 bonus in
addition to the championship points accrued over the two days.

The other front-row starters will earn $30,000 (second) and $25,000 (third).
Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter won the pole in 2013 with a four-lap average
speed of 228.762 mph in the Fast Nine Shootout.
First Day of Qualifying - The Saturday before race weekend

- The fastest 30 cars on this day will compose the starting field, but not starting positions.
- All entries are guaranteed one attempt to qualify between 11 a.m. and 5:50 p.m.
- Once the qualifying session ends, the top 30 cars are locked in to the field.
- However, all 33 cars must re-qualify on Sunday to determine final starting positions.
- The fastest nine cars advance to a shootout on Sunday to determine the Pole Award.

Qualifying lines:
There will be two qualifying lines at the end of pit lane:

Line 1: Cars that are unqualified or have withdrawn their previous qualifying times. Priority
will be given to this lane.

Line 2: Cars that have already qualified but want another attempt and have not withdrawn
their previous qualifying times.

- Multiple attempts are permitted without withdrawing a time by entering Line 2.
- Teams can withdraw their time and enter Line 1, which will have priority over cars already
 in the field.
- Teams that make multiple attempts can only improve their times if they have not withdrawn
 their time to enter Line 2, meaning, even if a driver records a slower four-lap average,
 that driver’s previous (faster) time will stand.
Qualifying determines which 33 drivers will compete in the Indianapolis 500.  
It also determines their starting position on the grid.  Qualifications is also
known as Time Trials.

A race car driver must run four laps around the 2.5-mile oval for a total of
10 miles, to complete a qualifying run.  

A driver qualifies alone on the track with no other cars in his way or
creating a draft.

To determine qualifying order, drivers draw a position on a first-come
first-serve basis the day before the 1st day of qualifying.

Drivers generally will be trying to qualify both their primary car and a
backup (T) car.

The average of their four lap times  is calculated to determine their
qualifying time.

The fastest driver gets to start on the inside of the front row.  
This is known as the pole position.  The driver who earns this also earns
a large cash prize, currently $100,000.

Unlike any other IndyCar oval race, the Indy 500 features a grid that is
3-cars wide.  The field is also limited to 33 cars, so there are 11 rows.

Each car must take two warm-up laps. The decision to take the green
to start the attempt or wave off must be made the second time past the

The team owner or designated representative must raise the green flag to
signify the start of a qualification attempt or the yellow flag will be thrown,
aborting the attempt.

In the not too distant past, two weekends (four days) were
used to qualify.   On the first day of qualifying, known as Pole Day, the
fastest driver won the pole position.  On the last day of qualifying drivers
could knock other drivers off of the starting grid by qualifying faster.  
This day was known as Bump Day.

Qualifying was shrunk down to one weekend in 2010.

A new qualifying system was implemented in 2014.
Turbo Boost Pressure:

The boost level will be increased from 130 kPa to 140 kPa for “Fast Friday”
practice and qualifying weekend.

The change in pressure adds about a 40-horsepower boost to the engines.  

The boost level will return to 130 kPa for final practice on Carb Day and the
500-mile race.
Second Day of Qualifying - The Sunday before race day

Group 1 - Positions 10-33

- All Saturday times are erased and positions 10-30 will re-qualify to determine starting position.
- Order will be the reverse of Saturday’s rankings.
- Lineup will be determined based on fastest four-lap averages.
- In the event that there are only 33 cars entered, this group will determine positions 10-33.

Group 2 (Only used in the event there are more than 33 cars):

- All Saturday times are erased and positions 31-33, and any entry that has yet to make one
attempt to qualify, will re-qualify to determine the 11th row of the race.

Group 3 - The Fast Nine

- The top nine cars will run in reverse order based on Saturday’s times.
- All cars will make one qualifying attempt.
- At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-9 based on their four-lap average during the
segment, the fastest winning the pole position.
2013 Indy 500 Front Row
(from the left: Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz, Ed Carpenter)
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Qualifying Rules
2015 - 2020
  • Qualifying is held on Saturday, the day before the race.

  • The grid is two cars wide.

  • Qualifying consists of three rounds.
For its first running in 1994, the race was scheduled for a Saturday
afternoon timeslot, at 12:15 pm EST (1:15 pm EDT). Since the race
was not being held on a holiday weekend, track officials decided that
a built-in rain date was necessary. Scheduling the race for Saturday
allowed Sunday as a make-up date in case of rain. In 1994, practice
and pole qualifying was held Thursday. Practice, second round
qualifying, and "Happy Hour" final practice was scheduled for Friday.
In addition, during the first year, a special "pacing" practice was held
where the field followed behind the pace car to measure pit road

Starting in 1995, an additional practice session was scheduled for
Wednesday afternoon. Pole qualifying was still held Thursday, and
second round qualifying was held Friday. This schedule continued
through 2000.

From 1998–2003, an IROC event was situated in the schedule. The
IROC race would be held the day before the Brickyard 400.

Starting in 2001, the race was moved to Sunday. In addition,
NASCAR eliminated second-round qualification. The schedule was
compressed so practice was held Friday, and the single pole
qualifying round was held Saturday. "Happy hour" final practice was
also held Saturday. This schedule differed from typical NASCAR
weekend schedules, which normally saw practice and pole
qualification on Fridays. Moving the pole qualification to Saturday
allowed for a potential larger audience, and also opened the schedule
up for the Kroger 200 held at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Starting in 2012, the Brickyard 400 became part of Super Weekend
at The Brickyard, consisting of three races over four days on both the
oval and the road course. The Nationwide Series left IRP and moved
to the Speedway for the Indiana 250. Grand Am utilizes the road
course on Friday for the Brickyard Grand Prix along with a shorter
Continental Sports Car Challenge Race beforehand. The current
schedule has all day Thursday for Grand Am practice & qualifying.
Friday morning features Sprint Cup & Nationwide practice, with the
sports car races held on Friday afternoon/evening. Saturday features
final practice for Sprint Cup cars followed by Qualifying for both the
Nationwide & Sprint Cup races, which is then followed by the
Nationwide race. The Brickyard 400 remains the only event on
Qualifying Rules
2012 - 2015
  • Qualifying is held on Saturday, the day before the race.

  • The grid is two bikes wide.

  • A Grand Prix event takes place over three days, with the first two of those for practice and
qualification for each class (Moto3, Moto2, MotoGP).

  • There are three 45-minute Free Practice sessions beginning on Friday.  the times set in those
sessions will count towards Qualifying, with the combined results determining whether a rider
will participate in Q1 or Q2.
Qualifying Rules
2014 - 2019
  • Round 1 - All cars run for twenty-five minutes.  The fastest 25 cars will move on to
round 2.  The rest of the cars will be sorted at the back of the grid by the times
from this round.

  • Round 2 -  run for ten minutes.  The fastest 12 cars move on to round 3.  The   
remaining 13 cars will be sorted in the middle of the grid by the times from this

  • Round 3 - The final qualifying round will be five minutes in duration and the fastest
single lap time will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order.
Exactly the same as the Sprint Cup Qualifying listed above.
Dale Earnhardt Won the 1995 Brickyard 400
  • Q1 - Riders whose times are 11th place and below will run for 15 minutes.  The two fastest
 will advance to Q2.   The remaining riders will take grid positions 13 and above
 according to their placement in QP1.

  • Q2 -  The twelve fastest riders will run for 15 minutes to determine the starting order at the
  front of the grid.
2014 Qualifying Rules
New knockout format is being utilized to minimize the role drafting plays in setting the lineup.
The format is as follows:

Two rounds of qualifying, with the top-12 posted lap speeds advancing to the second round

Race vehicles taking one, timed lap in each round of qualifying

Each race vehicle will be released in a predetermined timed interval as determined by NASCAR, with the sanctioning body
reserving the right to have more than one vehicle engaging in qualifying runs at the same time

Qualifying order for the first round will be determined by a random draw; final round qualifying order is determined by slowest to
fastest speeds from the first round

A 10-minute break will occur between the first qualifying round and the final round

Upon completion of the first qualifying round, the field will be set with positions 13 and beyond determined from first round
qualifying speed

The 12 fastest vehicles from the first round will have their speeds reset for the final round with starting positions 1-12
determined by the fastest laps in the final round

NASCAR will hold race vehicles following each qualifying lap; vehicles advancing to the final round will be allowed to adjust
tape and utilize a cool-down unit during the 10-minute break only.
INDY 500

Qualifying Rules 2019 -  2021
  • The grid consists of 11 rows, 3 cars wide.

  • There are two days of qualifying.  (Qualifying is also known as time trials.)

  • Each driver must put together four good laps around the track (10 miles) and his time is
     used to determine his starting position in the race.

  • The drivers have the track to themselves during their qualifying attempts.

  • A blind draw is held the day before qualifying to decide what order the drivers will qualify in.

  • If drivers do not want to qualify during a period due to conditions, the track will open for practice.

  • Each car is permitted two warm-up laps prior to the timed qualification laps.
      IndyCar Series officials may permit three warm-up laps if they deem it necessary.
1st Day of Qualifying - Saturday
  • The 30-fastest race cars qualify for the race and positions 10-30 for the race are set.

  • Any slower cars outside the 30 fastest will compete tomorrow for a spot on the last row.

  • The 9-fastest cars earn the right to compete in the "Shootout" tomorrow.
2nd Day of Qualifying - Sunday
  • Each unqualified car will get one chance to qualify for a position on the last row.  Bumping may occur.
     Beginning in 2020, the Last Row Shootout will be extended to 75 minutes and multiple attempts per car will be allowed.

  • FAST NINE SHOOTOUT - the fastest nine drivers from Saturday will make one four-lap attempt to determine the pole
     winner and top three rows.
Practice sessions before time trials commence are scheduled both days.

Beginning in 2018 - Driver and
entrant points will be awarded to the top nine qualifiers for the race.
The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, etc.
The Indy 500, and all IndyCar races, begin from a running start, as opposed to a standing start.

There are traditionally 11 rows of 3 cars each for a total of 33 starters in the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

The current four-lap (ten-mile) qualifying distance was first introduced in 1920, and has been used every year since 1939.

For several decades, four days of time trials were scheduled over the two weekends before the race.
All of this time was needed back when many 1-off teams showed up at Indy to try and make the show.
In recent years as rules have tightened, the cars have become more similar to each other which has resulted in extremely
competitive and close racing.

Shrinking qualifying down to one weekend happened from 1998—2000, during the early years of the IRL.
It was likely pressure from fans over tradtion, that brought 4-day qualifying back in 2001.
But by 2014, the Indy 500 returned to 2-day qualifying and has remained so since.

There have been changes over the years on how the various sessions of Indy 500 qualifying are held.
For instance,
Pole Day,  the day that the pole position is decided on, was once on the first day of 4-day qualifying.
Later, it was on the 1st day of 2-day qualifying.  Recently it has been on the 2nd day of 2-day qualifying, held among a small
group of the fastest drivers from the day before.

Historically, there have usually been more race entrants than 33.  I remember when over 70 cars showed up in May.

Drivers who qualify on the second day of time trials (nicknamed "Bump day") line up behind the first-day qualifiers - even if
their speeds are faster than those from the first day. Once the field is filled to 33, the slowest car, regardless of the day it
qualified, is "on the bubble." If another car qualifies faster, they will bump the slowest driver out of the field.

From 2014-2018:  All cars qualify on the first day of qualifying, but no starting positions were set.  Any cars slower than
the fastest 33 cars were out of contention -  so, Bumping was on the firrst day.  On the 2nd day of qualifying, the slowest 24
drivers re-qualify to determine starting order for positions 10-33.  Then the fastest nine drivers re-qualify to determine pole
position and the starting order for the first three rows.  In 2018, driver and
entrant points was awarded to the top nine
qualifiers for the race. The pole winner earns nine points and the second-fastest qualifier eight points, etc.

From 2010-2013, the qualifications was held over two days, and included a special "shootout" session for the pole position.

On Pole day, positions 1-24 were open for qualifying. At the end of the day the top nine drivers return to the track for a 90-
minute "shootout" competition to re-qualify for the top nine spots - including the pole position.

On Bump day, positions 25-33 are filled. Once the field is filled to 33 cars, bumping commences. The slowest car in the field,
regardless of the day it qualified, is "on the bubble."

On each qualifying day, the sessions began at Noon local time. Each car was in a predetermined random order and would
make their first qualifying attempt. (Teams had the option of passing on this first attempt and making their first attempt later
in the day, however track conditions usually get worse during the heat of the day, meaning teams are better off making their
first attempt as early as possible in the day) Teams then had until 4:00 PM local time on Pole Day and 6:00 PM local time
on Bump Day/During the Fast 9 Shootout to make up to two additional attempts, but if they chose to do so, they forfeited
their previous time.  (Cars needed only take the track by 4:00 PM/6:00 PM for their run.)

For each attempt, cars got one out-lap followed by one warm-up lap. At that time, a member of the team (usually the team
owner) must wave a green flag, signaling an attempt, or else the car will be waived off. The attempt can be waived off during
any of the four laps by the team, driver, or IndyCar. (The series will waive off the run if it is obvious the run will not be fast
enough to qualify and it is getting late in the day.) If an attempt is waived off after the run starts, the attempt counted toward
the 3-attempt limit & the previous time was still forfeited.

In 1933, qualifying was changed from 4 laps to 10 laps.  It is changed back to 4 laps in 1939.

Further details follow.
Historical Qualifying Procedures
Current Qualifying Rules
2012 -
  • Qualifying is held on Friday, the day before the race.

  • The grid is two cars wide.

  • A Grand Prix event takes place over three days, with the first two of those for practice and
qualification for each class (Moto3, Moto2, MotoGP).

  • Qualifying is broken down into three segments:
  • Segment 1 - The field is split in half and each half gets to run 10 minutes.  The fastest six
from each group moves on to Segment 2, while the remaining cars are assigned positions
13+. Group One drivers occupy the odd-numbered positions (13, 15, 17...) while Group Two
drivers occupy the even-numbered positions (14, 16, 18...) based on their fastest lap times
during the segment.

  • Segment 2 - Twelve cars get to run for 10 minutes.  The fastest six move on to Segment 3,
while the remaining six cars are ranked in positions 7-12 based on their fastest laps during
the segment.

  • Segment 3 - The six advancing cars receive 10 minutes of track time, with a guarantee of five   
minutes of green flag time. Each car receives one additional set of Firestone Firehawk tires
for use during this final segment. At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-6 based
on their fastest laps during the segment.
  • Cautions - If a car causes a red or full course yellow condition in any segment or otherwise
    interferes with qualifications as determined by the Race Direetor, the car’s best two timed laps
    of the segment will be disallowed. An interfering car will not be allowed to advance to the next
    segment. If a car causes two red or full course yellow conditions in any segment, all segment
    times shall be voided and the car shall not be permitted to participate in the remainder of

  • Doubleheader Weekends – Qualifying for Race 2 of a doubleheader weekend shall consist
of one 30-minute qualifying session for all cars of which 10 minutes is guaranteed Green
Condition time. The fastest time from either session will be awarded the pole position, with
the fastest time from the session that did not receive the pole being awarded the outside front
row position. This qualification session will also serve as the warmup for Race 1.
Most Race Qualifying...

* Takes place over a few hours on one day
* Involves many cars on the track
* Results in 2 columns of cars
* Uses the fastest lap of a car during a session.
Indy 500 Qualifying...

* Takes place all afternoon over several days
* Involves one car on the track at a time
* Results in 3 columns of cars
* Consists of the average speed over 4 laps
Indy 500 Qualifying, or Time Trials as it  used to be called, differs from other races and series in the world.
The main reason for qualifying is to arrange race cars so that the fastest ones start the race in front of slower ones.
One reason is that this helps the race get off to a safe start.
Another purpose of qualifying is to insure cars are fast enough to even compete in the race.

The fastest driver in qualifying "captures the pole", which means they start from the front row and are known as the
pole sitter.