ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The aptly named Firestone Fast Six knockout format has been utilized 52 times since its implementation in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series street/road course event at St. Petersburg in 2005.
Remember that race when Bryan Herta, current IZOD IndyCar Series team owner, started on the pole?
Well, a 2013 rulebook tweak will provide teams additional strategy options during the three rounds of qualifications March 23 on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, including the Firestone Fast Six to determine the Verizon P1 Award recipient, and the 110-lap race.
NBC Sports Network's live broadcast of quals at 2:30 p.m. (ET) March 23
Tire usage during qualifying is limited only by an entrant’s allocation. Six sets of primary Firestone Firehawks and three sets of alternate tires are available for the race weekend, and one set of new (sticker) primary tires and one set of alternate tires must be used in the race. For road/street course qualifying in 2012, only one set of tires was allowed during each of the three segments.
Firestone has provided a primary tire for St. Petersburg that has a slightly different construction from 2012, while the alternate tire features a higher grip, softer tread compound than a year ago in response to series and driver requests to increase the performance gap between the specs.
“By being able to choose at some tracks, ‘Do I use all my new tires in qualifying in an effort to guarantee myself a better position or do I think I’m better off saving new tires for the race?’ is what we’ve opened up by allowing the strategy to become more involved,” INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said.
No driver participated in all 10 Firestone Fast Six sessions in 2012. Scott Dixon has participated in the most (38 of the 52), and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti is second (36).
“I love the idea of not limiting it to one set (of tires) because if you locked the tire or any of those things you were done,” said Franchitti, who started on the pole at St. Petersburg in 2006 and won the race in 2011. “There will be a lot more unpredictability. Is somebody going to throw two sets (of alternates) at it? If you’re somebody who doesn’t normally progress, you’re going to slap another set on and take that chance.”
Road/street qualifying procedures
Segment 1: All cars shall participate in one of the two groups for 10 minutes per group inclusive of full-course yellow conditions, with six cars posting best lap times from each group advancing to Segment 2.
Cars not advancing to Segment 2 will fill positions 13 through the end of the starting field to be ranked in order of best lap time as follows: Group 1 shall occupy the odd-numbered positions beginning with 13 and Group 2 will occupy the even-numbered positions beginning with 14.
Segment 2: Shall consist of one 10-minute, 12-car qualifying group inclusive of full-course yellow conditions, with all times from Segment 1 having been voided. Six cars posting best lap times advance to Segment 3 (the Firestone Fast Six).
Cars not advancing to Segment 3 will fill positions 7-12 to be ranked in order of time.
Segment 3 (Firestone Fast Six): Consists of one 10-minute, six-car qualifying group, of which five minutes is guaranteed green condition time, with all times from Segment 2 voided. Session shall begin 10 minutes after checkered flag of Segment 2.
Firestone Fast Six shall determine the Verizon P1 Award winner and the cars starting 2-6 on the grid based on fastest lap time.
Firestone Fast Six fast facts entering St. Petersburg
31 – Different drivers have participated.
107 – Times a driver has improved their starting position.
30 – Times a driver has improved to pole position during session.
2.17 – Average starting position of driver who entered session with fastest lap from Segment 2.
5 – Most spots improved in race (most recent Ryan Hunter-Reay sixth to first at Edmonton 2012).
1 – Race in which no positions changed (Sonoma, 2005).