Breaking down the doubleheader rule book

The schedule format isn’t the only thing that changes on a doubleheader weekend. Some items in the competition rulebook also get tweaked, and it’s easy to forget it from year to year. Who is up for a refresher?


With two 70-lap races, on Saturday and Sunday at the Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the qualifying efforts will occur the same morning of each contest.

“The field will be divided into two groups based on practice times, with 12 minutes of track time allotted for each qualifying group,”

How do they determine the groups? I’m glad you asked.

The groups will be based on the lap times from the Friday afternoon practice session (the second and final practice for the IndyCar field, and the session immediately proceeding Race 1 qualifications per IndyCar). Drivers in odd-numbered positions will be in one group, and drivers in even-numbered positions will be in the other (i.e. – fastest driver, third fastest driver, fifth fastest driver, etc. are grouped together.) The driver with the fastest time in that practice session will get to decide if his group is Group 1 or Group 2 for Race 1 qualifying.

Each group will have a guaranteed green-flag time of five minutes in their 12 minute session. Per usual, if a car causes a red flag during any qualifying session, they will lose their best two lap times and will not be allowed to continue on in the session.

Whichever driver has the fastest lap time across both groups, will win the Verizon P1 Award as well as one driver point and one entrant championship point. The drivers in the polesitter’s group will then fill in all the odd numbered grid positions back to P23, based on their best lap times.

The other group will fill in all the even numbered grid positions  to complete the lineup.

The same format will be used for Race 2 Qualifying, but the qualifying group order will be switched. So the cars that ran in Group 1 for Race 1 Qualifying will run in Group 2 on Sunday morning.

Push to Pass Parameters

It’s also worth noting the push-to pass parameters. Even though the allowances aren’t a huge variance from what we’re used to, this is one of only three races in 2018 that grants each driver 150 seconds of total push to pass time, rather than the standard 200. They are limited to 150 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, here at the Detroit Grand Prix, and at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. The same breakdown of a max allowance per push is implemented – 10% of the total or 15 seconds.

Another rule with push to pass is that it is disabled on the initial race start as well as race restarts. The only time it’s allowed on a restart is if we go back to green with 2 laps remaining, or with 3 minutes or less remaining in the case of a timed race.

This is rarely a caveat that we need to be aware of, but in circumstances like Race 2 of 2017, it became relevant, and quickly. There were mechanical issues for both the No. 20 ECR Chevy of Spencer Pigot and the No. 5 SPM Honda of James Hinchcliffe, which caused a yellow flag on Lap 66. The cars were removed from the track and we went back to green on Lap 68 – essentially a green-white-checkered situation (though in this instance it happened organically rather than as a forced stunt by race control. Not that any racing series would do that!) – allowing drivers to use their push to pass! Rahal was able to fend off the field and come up with his second win of the weekend after leading the majority of the event. 41 laps of clean air, when all was said, done, and tallied.

Anything can happen in Detroit – we’re sharing ground between the United States and Canada, track surface that always seems to be a talking point, plus the weather is as unpredictable as the race results. There’s no telling what this 14-turn temporary street circuit will throw your way… but whatever it is, it could be the difference between a Lap 1, Turn 1 wall-slap, or a podium finish. And if you don’t believe me, just ask James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly.

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Photo credit: Joe Skibinski, IndyCar

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