There was no shortage of INDYCAR news this week, but one of the biggest changes coming for the 2012 season has to be the addition of qualifying heats at the Iowa Corn Indy 250 for this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway.
One of the main suggestions often heard for oval races on the schedule is to turn them into “events”, such as the Indy 500 or many of the street courses manage to be. Oval qualifying outside Indianapolis can, admittedly at times, seem slightly less of a spectacle than Indy’s Pole and Bump Days or the knockout Firestone Fast Six qualifying we see at the various road/street courses.
For those of you who haven’t read up on the proposed qualifying structure for Iowa, three 30-lap heats will take place, with slotting determined by practice speeds. One heat will be for positions 1-10, with the other two races determining the remainder of the field on an odd/even basis (11-31 and 12-32). The idea should be familiar to those involved with various types of sprint car racing, and frankly, it’s been working for those forms of racing for a long time.
Iowa has proven itself to be an absolute jewel in the Series’ crown, and this season, it will also turn out to see if qualifying heats can enhance other ovals on the schedule. The hope is that it excites the crowd, gives them more bang for their buck, and serves as a testing point for additional other short ovals in the future to potentially adopt this idea. Further, it’s a good sign that INDYCAR is listening to fan concerns, and working to make their races stronger events overall.
Will the heat format work? Time will tell, but so far, crowd reaction has been hugely positive, with an outpouring of support on both message boards and social media platforms such as Twitter. Expect more reaction as the details of Iowa qualifying are fine-tuned, but right now, it’s about as much of a winning notion as you might expect. It’s also fun to consider drivers such as Ed Carpenter getting to return to a qualifying format they should know very well indeed from time in USAC sprint cars, or to see what drivers like Tony Kanaan can do in a 30-lap, all-out dash to the finish.
This is going to be a year of change for INDYCAR, and heat races are going to be a high-notice item on the calendar. If nothing else, you can bet one thing—no one should be sandbagging in practice sessions.
What are your thoughts on heat races at Iowa for the IZOD IndyCar Series? Are you fired up, or does the thought of heats leave you cold? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate, or drop him a line at mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com.