Power calls for change to IndyCar oval qualifying

Will Power at Gateway Motorsports Park, where he qualified on pole this year pic: IndyCar

Will Power and Team Penske team-mate Josef Newgarden have both called for changes to IndyCar’s oval qualifying format due to the unfairness of a random starting order.

Qualifying is essentially an all-car shootout at each oval race except the Indianapolis 500, with the starting order drawn out of a hat.

Drivers who go on track later run on a cleaner track without having necessarily earned such an advantage.

In 2017, a Penske driver qualified on pole 11 times out of the 17 races.

Of those, eight came on the 11 road or street course races, while Power was responsible for all three on the five non-Indianapolis oval races.

Newgarden said he has spoken to IndyCar’s president of competition and operations Jay Frye about a perceived unfairness in oval qualifying.

“The first 10 guys out there in qualifying are just cleaning the track for the next 10 or 12, and the track just gets better and better,” he said.

“You see that even in road and street course qualifying. We all sit there and let others clear the track surface and the fast times come at the end of the session, almost always.

“In oval qualifying, you don’t have that luxury.

“Your running order is decided already, and if you’re one of the first guys, and your main rivals are some of the last guys, you’re at a major disadvantage.

“So I’ve talked with Jay about it because they’ve got to do something next year to make it fairer.

“They need to reward performance by going later; we can’t be having the order decided by drawing names out of a hat.”

Both Newgarden and Power were split on what would be a better alternative to the current system.

“I think you should reward practice results,” said Newgarden.

“There’s a lot that goes with that. I’m sure they can figure out some way – practice speeds or maybe points standings – to do it a better way that’s not totally random.”

Power suggested basing the running order on oval championship points could be a solution, but added such a system would need to exclude the Indy 500, as it could distort the running order.

“Maybe you could do it based on oval championship points, and the reason I say that instead of overall points is that it wouldn’t be fair on Ed Carpenter (who only races on ovals) having to go first every time,” said Power.

“But I don’t think you should include the double points from Indy because that can spread the points so far apart that you’d end up with the running order at the next few ovals.”

When asked if fans preferred the increased competitiveness produced by random qualifying, Power said, “It needs to be done better than how it is now.

“The sport’s too competitive to be playing games where one championship contender goes first and gets screwed, and his rivals go last and end up at the front.”

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