Like in any sport, Indy Racing has certain rules and guidelines that it calls for its participants to follow. The Indy 500 also has some of its own specific guidelines that you’re going to want to know prior to race day in order to gain a better grasp of the biggest race of the year.
While the qualifying procedure has changed several times over the years, the four-lap (10-miles) qualifying distance has held been used in every year since 1939. For several years the qualifying process spanned four days, but it is now just two-day event held on the Saturday and Sunday one week prior to the race.
The current qualifying process determines the 33-car field on Saturday, but the starting order won’t be set until the next day. On Sunday the drivers who qualified 10th-33rd will qualify once again, this time to decide where they start (all times from Saturday are thrown out). Once the order for 10-33 is set, what is known as the “Fast Nine Shootout” will take place. The top nine qualifying cars from Saturday will compete to see who will hold the coveted pole position along with deciding the order for 2nd-9th.
Number of Cars Rule:
Any car entered in the Indy 500 is allowed to have another car with the same number. If the car’s number is 17, for example, the second car would be labeled 17T. Both of these cars can be used for practice runs. If a backup car is running really well during the practice period, it can then be entered separately with another driver. These backup cars from the better teams are sold often enough to other teams who use them in the race.
Unification of Rules:
Indy 500 race specifications for cars used to be different than those of the Indy Racing league, but a rule change has now unified things. Now the only difference between Indy 500 cars and cars for the rest of the races is that Indy 500 cars have a special wings that gives them lower drag. For many years, the USAC and CART set the rules for this race, as illogical as that sounds. As a result, several different engines and chassis were developed for the Indy 500 which couldn’t be run anywhere else.
Inspections are getting tighter and tighter in this era of cheating and the Indy 500 calls for several inspections before the race starts. The first is a safety inspection. The second is to make sure that the car follows all guidelines so that its qualification process will be a legal one.
You’re probably wondering what the hell this rule is all about. Prior to 1971, women were not allowed to drive in the Indy 500 or even be in the pit area. Six years after this rule was wiped out, Janet Guthrie became the first women to qualify for the Indy 500. In total there have been nine female drivers to qualify.
Sarah Fisher holds the record for most starts in the Indy 500 with eight, while Danica Patrick is the only female driver who has led laps (19 in 2005 & 10 in 2011). Patrick also has the best finish for a female, with here third place showing in 2009.
Be sure to check out all of Jimmy Boyd’s Indy 500 articles including his 2008 Indy 500 odds and predictions to find out who Jimmy likes to win the biggest race of the year.