Like in any sport, Indy Racing has certain rules and guidelines that it calls for its participants to follow. The Indianapolis 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.

Indianapolis 500 Race Qualifying Rules & Procedure

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.

All cars that are attempting to qualify are selected at random for the qualifying order on Saturday. Each entrant has the option of taking up to three attempts to qualify. The only catch is that once you choose the option to make a second or third run, the previous times are thrown out.

At the end of the day, there are 33 cars that advance on to Sunday. Once you get to day two of qualifying, your times on Saturday no longer matter.  Those that qualified 1-9 are in what is known as the “Shootout,” which determines the order for the first 9 cars. Those that are 10-33 also have to run one last time to determine the rest of the order for the grid.

More Indy 500 Racing Guidelines & Regulations

Number of Cars You Can Use:

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 often sold to other teams who use them in the race.

Unification of Race Specifications:

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 Indianapolis 500 cars and cars for the rest of the races is that cars at this event have special wings that give 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 this single event which couldn’t be run anywhere else.

Car Inspections:

Inspections are getting tighter and tighter in this era of cheating and the Indianapolis 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 Indianapolis 500 or even be in the pit area. Six years after this rule was wiped out, Janet Guthrie became the first women to qualify. In total there have been nine female drivers to qualify.

Sarah Fisher holds the record for most starts in the Indianapolis 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.