IndyCar Racing
Qualifying Weekend
By Andrew Cutler
May 20 2011

First of all, you need to understand that nearly all drivers have been practice with TWO cars this past week; their primary car, plus an alternate one, which is designated by a 'T' (for example, Scott Dixon's cars are #9 & #9T). This gives drivers a chance to hopefully find thier ideal track set-up faster by hopping quickly - relatively speaking - from one car to another to try out alternate set-ups with little lag time in between.

What is important here is that each car can be used in qualifications attempts, allowing drivers even more shots at either making the race or improving thier starting spot, depending.

Anyways, back to how this all plays out...

Today (Saturday, May 21) is Pole Day, when the top 24 grid spots are up for grabs. All drivers are free to take a maximum of three attempts per car (hence, Scott Dixon could conciveably make up to six runs) between the hours of 11am & 4pm ET. Each attempt consists of four laps, with the speed average being the mark that they 'stand' on. Once a driver takes the green flag to start a run, it counts as an attempt against that car even if they fail to finish the attempt. Once a driver sets an initial four lap mark, if they then choose to go out again, their prior mark gets erased, and they cannot have it back if they don't like their new one; all that they can do is gamble on yet another attempt, provided that they still have one to burn.

After 4pm, anyone who is outside the top 24 calls it a day and comes back on Sunday to battle of the remaining nine spots in the same manor. With seven more drivers than spots this year, this promises to be the best Bump Day in a LOOONG time.

Anyone who is the the 10th-24th spot can call it a day, secure in the knowledge that they are lockied into the race in their current grid spot.

The top nine drivers, however, still have work to do.

They are locked into the top grid spots, but have to go out yet again between 4:30 & 6pm to make at least one final attempt - once again, they have up to three - to determine their final grid spot on the front three rows. Unlike the pre-4pm session, their top time is the mark that sticks, and not neccessarily their last time.

Personally, I don't agree with this, and neither do a fair number of other 'Indy purists' that I've met in person or online, but this is the way that it is.

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I will driving down to Indy early in the morning in order to be there for all of Pole Day (weather permitting, and so far it looks hopeful). Unless Pole day is a wash-out, I have no plans to stick around for Bump Day.

I'll have plenty of pictures and video, and will get them posted ASAP early next week.