First, my condolences to the family of Maurice Petty, who died Saturday at age 81. The master engine builder and brother of Richard Petty was a cornerstone of racing in the 60s. It has been a tough few days in the auto racing world with the loss of Chuck Hulse and Ralph Liguori as well.
The time schedule for every day of Indianapolis 500 activity is out. NBC will more than seven hours of track time including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. NBC will qualifying on Saturday, August 15, from 3-5 pm ET, and the network returns Sunday for the last row shootout beginning at 1 pm. The Fast Nine follows on NBC from 1:45-2:30. The rest of qualifying can be seen on either NBC Gold or NBCSN.
Opening Day Tuesday August 11, is a short day. Veterans practice from 11-1, and Rookie Orientation runs from 1-4. Wednesday through Friday practice times have changed from the traditional times. Practice runs from 12:30-5:30 each day.
The track is open to the public every day, but only at 25% capacity. The only day I see this as a possible issue is Carb Day. Many fans who have chosen not to attend the race may be coming out on the Friday before the race as their only chance to see the field of 33 on track.
Tuesday Aug. 11
11-1 pm – Veterans Practice NBC Gold
1-4 pm – Rookie Orientation/Veterans Refresher Programs NBC Gold
Wednesday Aug. 12 – Friday Aug. 14
12:30-5:30 pm – Practice NBC Gold
Saturday Aug. 15
8:30-9:30 am – Practice NBC Gold
11-6 pm – Quals (NBC Gold coverage 11-3, NBC 3-5, NBCSN 5-6
Sunday Aug. 16
10-10:30 am – Last chance practice NBC Gold
10:30-11 am – Fast Nine practice NBC Gold
12:30-1:45 pm – Last Row Shootout (NBC at 1 pm)
1:45-2:30 pm – Fast Nine Shootout NBC
4:15-6 pm – Practice NBCSN
Friday Aug. 21 (Carb Day)
11-1 pm – Final practice NBCSN
Sunday Aug. 23 (Race Day)
2:30 pm – 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 NBC
Qualifying Still Needs to be Fixed
The series and the Speedway are sending mixed messages with the qualifying format. Last year the 25 guaranteed spots argument was laid to rest, but what about the fastest 33? It is difficult if not impossible to get the Fastest 33 if drivers are going to be locked in on Saturday. In 2019, Fernando Alonso didn’t make the race, but his time was faster than the 30th qualifier, who was deemed safe. I don’t necessarily have an issue with a last chance qualifying on Sunday, but the cars involved should be able to defend after they are bumped. The slowest car in the entire field Saturday should be in jeopardy and have a chance to defend itself Sunday as well. This is the only way to have the Fastest 33 in the current climate.
Time for the extra runs can be made available by eliminating the Fast Nine. Like inter-league play in baseball and the slam dunk contest at the NBA All-Star Game, this is a concept that has outlived its usefulness. There can be plenty of drama in a pole fight late Saturday afternoon. I thought Conor Daly winning the pole at Iowa last Friday was pretty dramatic.
Let’s Play Two!
We could see two more double headers added to the season schedule. There likely will be no racing on the west coast this year. Mid Ohio news trickled out yesterday, and Gateway may announce today. The Harvest Classic at IMS may also end being pluralized.
I remain skeptical of St. Pete running. The season finale may be at IMS.