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Indy seeks to recapture qualifying mystique

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Through the years qualifying for the “greatest spectacle in racing” has been a big deal indeed.

On the first day of qualifications, hundreds of thousands of race fans used to make their way to 16th Street and Georgetown Road to see who would start the Indianapolis 500 on the pole.

The cash and other prizes awarded to the pole winner were almost incidental.

Over the past several years, the Speedway has tried a number of qualification procedures in an attempt to regain the magic of the event’s glory days. This year there will be two days of qualifications, divided into three sessions. They are:

May 17 (11 a.m. to 5:50 p.m.): The fastest 33 cars will make up the starting field for the Indianapolis 500. Each entry is guaranteed at least one four-lap attempt to qualify. The fastest nine cars will advance to the Fast Nine Shootout.

May 18 (10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.): The cars that were 10th through 33rd on the speed charts on Saturday will make an additional four-lap run to determine their starting position in the 500.

May 18 (2 p.m. — 2:45 p.m.): The fastest nine cars from Saturday will make a four-lap run beginning with the slowest and ending with the fastest to determine

the starting position of the fastest nine cars in the Indianapolis 500.

About the new qualification procedures, Derrick Walker, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, said, “There is an enormous amount of talent in the field this year, which so far includes five former Indianapolis 500 champions. The new format presents an additional challenge to drivers who have one chance to make the field on Saturday and start over again on Sunday to determine their starting position.”

Last year, Tony George’s stepson, Ed Carpenter, took the pole with an average speed of 228.762 mph. He said, “You have to take big risks when you’re taking a run at the pole or trying to get into the shootout. We’re always at the limit of what our cars have, and never more so than qualifying at Indianapolis.

“The driver has to be perfect to execute a pole-type run and doing it while the car is right on the edge of its capabilities. It’s extremely stressful and challenging and then rewarding when it goes well. It’s definitely one of the hardest things we do all year long if not the hardest.”

ESPN will air the qualifications; and its vice president of motorsports production, Rich Feinberg, said, “Down through history, qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 has made for many dramatic and compelling television moments; and we’re confident that the leadership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar will continue that tradition with this new format. We look forward to bringing it all to our viewers in May.”

Racing dates set

Brownstown Speedway —

A visit to the Old-timers’ Reunion today will put race fans in the mood to get their race season underway. They can get started by going to Brownstown Speedway for

a program featuring late models, modifieds, super stocks, pure stocks

and hornets.

On March 22, Brownstown will conduct its first premier show of their season, the 17th annual Indiana Icebreaker featuring the Lucas Oil dirt late models. The $10,000-to-win purse and Lucas Oil points should combine to fill the pits. Modifieds and pure stocks also will compete.

On March 29, the sixth annual No Way Out 40 will be run as a memorial to the late Jesse Hockett. Last season Keith Kunz and Pete

Willoughby took their new driver, Christopher Bell, to Brownstown to run his first sprint car race. Before the race they took him to Lawrenceburg Speedway for an open practice. After a couple of hot laps, they took Bell to Brownstown, where he won the feature. Along with a nice winner’s check came the tallest trophy in the Keith Kunz Motorsports shop.

Twin Cities Raceway Park — Twin Cities will conduct open practices March 29 and April 5. Its first racing program will be April 12, featuring pure stocks, hornets, super stocks, modifieds and King of the TQs. Terry Eaglin’s King of TQ series is gaining popularity, and the program should make the trip to Vernon worth your time. Some of the track’s featured programs are the Don Russ Memorial (June 14), Mark Clark Memorial (Aug. 2)

and Ted Collins Memorial (Aug. 30).

Lawrenceburg Speedway — Lawrenceburg Speedway will get its season underway with an open practice March 29. The first race of the season will feature the USAC Thunder and Lightning sprint cars. Support programs will feature modifieds and hornets.

The USAC sprinters will make their first appearance of the season in the Midwest. Area drivers who can be expected to compete in the Lawrenceburg opener include Chase Stockon, Joss Moffatt, Logan Hupp, etc.

Lincoln Park Speedway at Putnamville — Lincoln Park also will open its season with an open practice March 29. The opening racing program on April 5 will feature MSCS sprint cars, modifieds, super stocks and bombers.

Bloomington Speedway — Bloomington Speedway will open its season April 11 with sprint cars, modifieds, super stocks and hornets. The same cars will be in competition April 18.

Bloomington’s April 25 program will feature the modified division in JB Robinson Memorial paying $2,000 to win. The sprint cars, super stocks and hornets also will be in competition.

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