Thursday, March 13, 2014

There's No Need to Mourn Bump Day. At Least Not This Year.

Indycar announced last Friday a revised qualifying procedure for the Indianapolis 500: All cars run on Saturday to get in the race. For Sunday, times are scrapped and the fastest 9 run in a shootout to determine the pole sitter. Each car in the rest of the field makes another 4-lap run to set the starting order. This procedure, obviously designed to showcase the race for the pole on TV, is undoubtedly inciting a lot of anger among fans: Bump day has been effectively relegated to Saturday, robbing the fans of that high drama in favor of just setting the field and running for the pole. Once, the final Sunday of qualifying was the most dramatic day in motorsports as drivers at the bottom of the speed charts chased their dreams by making last-minute deals and hanging it all out for 4 laps. On the last day of qualifying in 2014, all but the 9 fastest cars will be making qualifying runs that do nothing but rearrange their starting order. The fastest 9 will be going for the pole. It's all glory for those 9, not much drama for anyone else.

The effective death of bump day will make some fans apoplectic. And I understand that. Rage may be a pretty reasonable reaction to the loss of a tradition like this. But it won't bother me at all, at least not this year. And it shouldn't bother anyone else, no matter how strident a traditionalist he or she may be.

That's because, in 2014, it's unlikely there will be any bumping. I'm not sure if 33 entrants have been identified at this point on the calendar. 'Bump Day' would have been a drama-free (i.e. boring on TV) event anyway. If ABC's cameras and air time are going to be focused on the Speedway for a few hours, everyone who wants more exposure for the series should agree that the shootout for the pole is a much better use of that time. That's at least worth points and money, unlike a glorified practice session.

The future is a different story, at least if there will be bumping. If there are, say, 36 or more entrants in 2015, then I would advocate tweaking the format again: Everyone runs on Saturday to determine the Fast 9 and provisional positions 10-33. Sunday is for the actual Fast 9 shootout and bumping. The question is, if you want to hook casual viewers, which do you run first: The bumping, or the Fast 9?

Another question: 2014's Fast 9 shootout gives each of the pole contenders one 4-lap shot at the pole. Which makes for a better show: That format, or the timed format of a couple years back that allowed for multiple attempts during the shootout? I thought it was pretty cool to see Ryan Briscoe waiting in the cockpit of his car, helmeted and suited up, ready to go in case someone bested his time.

Please stay tuned, I am preparing some new posts for this blog and plan to roll them out as the Indycar season approaches!

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