By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
When the Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) field takes to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to open qualifications for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 19, they’ll do so with added championship implications after an alteration to the race’s qualifying point allotment.
INDYCAR issued out the 2018 VICS rulebook on Tuesday, bringing to light a host of minor changes to the series that will effect both individual races and the tour at large.
One of the focal points of the changes is the Month of May, which consists of the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 12, as well as the two weeks of practice, qualifications that culminate in the Indy 500 on May 27.
The biggest alteration comes to qualifying, where championship points will now be awarded solely to those teams that advance to the Fast Nine pole qualifying round on May 20. The top nine drivers will be awarded points on a descending scale, with the polesitter of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” tallying nine points, with the driver who slots in second receiving eight points, and additional drivers receiving one fewer point until the driver who qualifies ninth, who receives a single mark.
The schedule for the month will also see a slight change. The track will no longer be open to the public on the Sunday (May 13) following the INDYCAR Grand Prix, allowing teams a day off for Mother’s Day. The garages will be open the following day, but there will be no on-track activity. That will leave May 16-18 for pre-qualifying practice for the Indy 500.
Unchanged for 2018 will be the double points awarded at both the Indy 500 and the season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 16.
Additional announcements and changes include the following:
- The qualifying order for all non-Indy 500 will be determined by entrant points heading into the race weekend. Teams will qualify in reverse order of entrant points, meaning any teams without points will qualify first, while the point leaders will set a time last. A blind draw will determine the qualifying order for the Indy 500, as well as the order for the first qualifiers in the event that any other event sees multiple participants without entrant points.
- INDYCAR has opted to increase the Firestone tire allotments at five of the 17 events in 2018. Teams will be offered an additional set of tires in race weekends at ISM Raceway (Phoenix), Belle Isle Park, Texas Motor Speedway, the streets of Toronto and Iowa Speedway.
- Teams outside of the top 10 in the championship standings will no longer be permitted an extra set of tires for the opening practice session of a weekend.
- The minimum car weight has been increased by 10 pounds to accommodate new parts and additional on-car cameras related to the new universal aerokit utilized by teams in 2018. Vehicles will be required to weigh 1620 pounds on road and street courses and short ovals, while the allowance will drop to 1590 pound on superspeedways. Not included in the weight requirement are fuel, drink bottles and their contents, drivers and driver equivalency weight.
- Teams that were unable to participate in the fall manufacturer test with the universal aerokit will be allowed an additional half-day of private testing. All tests must be done with just one car per team, and it must take place in conjunction with their first on-track test of 2018. Teams will be allowed five hours and two sets of Firestone tires for the test.
- An official schedule has been set for the upcoming open test at ISM Raceway on Feb. 9-10. The track will be open to all teams from 3-6 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. ET on both days, with an additional four hours of testing offered to rookie drivers for oval test assessments on Feb. 8 from 3-7 p.m. ET.
- An additional open test has been announced for Aug. 30 at Portland International Raceway – the day before the VICS officially returns to the track.