Beaux Barfield - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Taking a page out of the Sprint, World of Outlaws and Midget races, the IZOD IndyCar Series will have qualifying heat races for next weekend's Iowa Corn Indy 250 on the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway oval, a third consecutive oval contest in the 2012 season.
Initially, two practice sessions on June 22 - totaling 90 minutes - will play a large role in setting the starting grid for the race. There will subsequently be three heat races of 30 laps each to replace single-car qualifying for the following day's race under the lights. According to Rule 8.5 of the IndyCar rulebook, groups for the 6:15PM CDT qualifying heats will be determined by combined practice session times.
Race No. 1 will consist of the even-numbered positions, starting with the 10th-fastest practice time overall; this will determine the even-numbered starting spots in the field, beginning from 10th on down.
Race No. 2 will take the odd-numbered positions, starting with the ninth-quickest practice time overall and determine the odd-numbered start positions from ninth on down.
Race No. 3 will consist of the drivers ranked No. one through No. eight by combined practice times and will determine the top eight starting positions, with the winner of this particular 30-lap heat race earning the pole position.
According to Beaux Barfield, INDYCAR president of competition, this qualifying procedure is an experiment to add excitement to the process of qualifying. Single-car qualifying, with the cumulative time of two laps, will be held at this weekend's race on The Milwaukee Mile and will continue for the race on Auto Club Speedway's 2-mile oval on September 14.
This procedures at Iowa's oval are meant to complement the three-round knockout qualifying seen at the Indy cars' street and road courses that is completed by the Firestone Fast Six 10-minute shootout.
"The build-up we presently have for the Firestone Fast Six has that excitement and we wanted to do something similar for the oval events," Barfield explained. "It's going back to the heritage of short-track races."
Double-file restarts also will be utilized at Iowa Speedway, which has played host to the IZOD IndyCar Series since its opening in 2007. Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport won the 2011 race.
"We've had a lot of firsts at Iowa Speedway with INDYCAR and the mini-races are another first," said Stan Clement, president of Iowa Speedway. "With the new car and the heat races, fans who attend the Iowa Corn Indy 250 weekend will get racing on both days."