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Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Schedule and Breakdown

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We are now just over one week away from one of the greatest annual spectacles in racing: the Indianapolis 500. This year sees the Indy 500 reclaim its rightful place in the annual calendar on the final Sunday in May. Before we get to the race itself, however, the starting grid and final 33-car field must be determined. This article lays out the Indianapolis 500 qualifying schedule and breaks down the two-day event set for this weekend at The Brickyard.

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Credit: NTT IndyCar Series

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Schedule

The qualifying runs for the 105th Indianapolis 500 will take place over the course of two days this weekend. The following sections outline everything you need to know with regards to the schedule, start times, TV coverage and more ahead of Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend.

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Day 1 Info

Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend Day 1
Date: Saturday, May 22nd, 2021
Start Time: 12 p.m. EST
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Indianapolis, IN
Coverage: Peacock will air the entire six-hour event; NBC will air from 2-3; NBCSN will air from 3-6
Grid Positions Set: Nos. 10-30
Laps: 4 per trial

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Day 2 Info

Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend Day 2
Date: Sunday, May 23rd, 2021
Start Time: 1 p.m. EST
Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway — Indianapolis, IN
Coverage: NBCSN will air from 1-2:30; NBC will air from 2:30-4:30
Grid Positions Set: Nos. 1-9 and Nos. 31-33
Laps: 4 per trial

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Breakdown

All 35 cars on the official entry list for the 105th Indianapolis 500 will be involved in Day 1 of qualifying on Saturday. Each car is guaranteed a single four-lap qualifying run with the goal being to complete the four circuits in the fastest time possible. Once each team has completed their run, all cars will be given the opportunity to improve upon their original time if they so desire. However, here is a unique wrinkle to this portion of the event.

Normal vs Fast Lane

Prior to the start of Saturday’s Indianapolis 500 qualifying, each team will get to choose whether they run their qualifying laps in the ‘normal lane’ or the ‘fast lane’ . Each lane has its own pros and cons when it comes to qualifying strategy.

Cars that choose the ‘normal lane’ will be able to attempt to improve upon their initial qualifying time without withdrawing that initial time. Therefore, there is a lessened degree of risk. Should the team improve upon their original time in a successive run, the new time would simply become their posted qualifying run. But should they post a worse time than their initial run, they would still be able to fall back on their better result.

Meanwhile, cars that choose the ‘fast lane’ will assume a heightened level of risk-reward. It is primarily for cars that are yet to establish a qualifying time as it gets them priority over those lined up in the ‘normal lane’. The catch is that cars that opt to run in this lane that already have an established Indianapolis 500 qualifying time must forfeit their previous run before going again. Therefore, the time from this successive run would be official, regardless of whether it is an improvement or worse than the original time.

Last Chance Qualifying

While the official Indianapolis 500 entry list contains a total of 35 cars, only 33 will comprise the field for the race itself. That means two teams will be sent home after Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend. The five cars with the slowest qualifying times from Saturday’s session will have one last shot to make the grid via Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifying.

All five entries in the Last Chance Indianapolis 500 Qualifying are guaranteed a single attempt and can make additional attempts to throw down the fastest time possible until the timer expires. If teams opt to make multiple attempts, previous times are automatically discarded. At the end of the event, only the most recent qualifying time will stand for all five cars. The three fastest times will slot into positions Nos. 31-33 on the starting grid. The other two teams will not be able to run in the race.

Fast Nine Shootout

The only positions on the official Indianapolis 500 starting grid that will be set in stone after Saturday are Nos. 10-30. The top nine cars from Day 1 of qualifying will proceed to the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday. This second-day event serves the purpose of awarding the pole position and also sets the starting order for positions 2-9 behind it.

The running order for the Fast Nine Shootout time trials is based on the final times from Saturday’s session, starting with the slowest and working up to the fastest. Each team will receive one set of Firestone tires for the pre-qualification practice runs and one set to be used during the event itself.

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