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Pre-1996 Qualifying Procedure Question

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  • Pre-1996 Qualifying Procedure Question

    So, in watching ABC & ESPN coverage of qualifying for the 89-93 races here over the past couple weeks, I was puzzled by one question a few times, regarding "withdrawing" your qualified car prior to qualifying an alternate car. Here's a hypothetical scenario to illustrate the question...

    Driver A & Team X bring two entries for the month, #82 Primary and #82T Backup.
    First weekend, Driver A qualifies the primary car (#82) - let's say for illustration with a 217.500 average.
    Second weekend, the field fills and it's looking increasingly likely that a 217.500 average won't stay in the field and will be bumped, as other unqualified cars appear capable of running faster than that speed.
    With the #82 "2nd from the bubble" at 217.500, Team X "withdraws" the #82 (primary) car, and sends Driver A out to qualify the #82T (backup) car - hopefully at a speed some margin above the 217.500 so they are not at risk of being "bumped".

    My question is - with the #82 (primary) car already in the field at this given moment (albeit only 1 car away from being bumped from the field), why "withdraw" the #82 (primary) prior to qualifying the #82T (backup)? Why not leave the #82 in the field to either be bumped later on (likely), or to remain in the field but with a slow time (not likely but possible)?

    A couple of times I saw this sort of scenario and wondered what the purpose of taking the car which is, at least at the moment, in the field of 33, out of the field PRIOR TO qualifying the other car? The rule at the time, summarized, appears to be "the car qualifies, not the driver", and although when this happened it looked like Driver A did qualify the 2nd car faster than the first one, I can think of many possible scenarios where bad things could happen:
    • After withdrawing the primary, Driver A crashes the backup during the qualifying attempt; now, instead of having a car in the field (albeit close to being bumped), now you have ZERO cars in the field.
    • After withdrawing the primary (217.500), Driver A cannot qualify the backup any faster. Again, instead of having one slow car in the field, which might be bumped, you have NO cars in the field.
    • After withdrawing the primary but before the backup makes it to the front of the qualifying line, another driver crashes heavily and the crash cleanup closes the track until time runs out (gun goes off). Now you've withdrawn a car that didn't get bumped, due to a crash and time running out, but didn't get to qualify your backup and have NO cars in the field.
    • You withdraw the primary, but due to conditions, ability, or mechanical failure, no competing cars can run quicker than the time (217.500) you withdrew and the withdrawn car wouldn't have been bumped.
    • Weather (rain) stops qualifying after you've withdrawn the primary car but before enough other cars can run a quicker time that would have bumped it.
    In 1992 was a somewhat related example... Scott Goodyear qualified one car with a slower time; the team later qualified the other car with a quicker time, and briefly had 2 cars in the field, before the first-qualified, but slower, car was bumped later on. Now, they did use another driver (Mike Groff) to qualify the 2nd car, but this scenario makes more sense to me. Had they withdrawn the first-qualified, slower, car - what if Groff crashed on his qualifying attempt?

  • #2
    Withdrawing an already qualified car was very rare. Typically the team would practice the T car like crazy to defend their position if need be, but wouldn't withdraw the already qualified car for the reasons you presented.

    In '84 the Sheirson team let Sullivan take a 196 average in their own DSR chassis on the first weekend. They obtained a new Lola, withdrew the DSR, and Danny qualified the Lola on the third day with a 203 average (200 bubble).

    In 1987 Danny Sullivan qualified his PC-16 with a 205 average (bubble was 202 that year) on Pole Day, knowing they had an 86 March on the way. They took the time just in case circumstances like rain would have prevented Danny from qualifying the March. Once it was apparent the March was easily fast enough and rain would play no factor, they withdrew the PC-16 and Danny qualified the March at 210 in the third day.

    In '94 Rahal withdrew their Honda powered cars and re-qualified in Illmore powered Penskes. In the case of the Rahal team, the times put up by the Hondas were too slow anyway and they would have been bumped regardless.

    Outside of those cases, I can't think of a team withdrawing a qualified car unless it happened before 1970.
    The Ayn Rand of Indycar

    No one had to badge the Offy.

    Crapping all over threads since 2000.

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    • #3
      One other thing, in 1994 Brian Herta was driving for Ol' AJ and was on the bubble. He was in the qualifying line with his back up ready to bump his way back in. Herta got to the front of the line, but was still in the field. Given the number of cars in line and the late time of day, if he pulled out there would be no second chance. Given that you never withdraw an already qualified car unless there was a very good reason, AJ made the only decision he could have made. He pulled Herta from the qualifying line and hoped that his bubble speed would stand, which it eventually did.
      The Ayn Rand of Indycar

      No one had to badge the Offy.

      Crapping all over threads since 2000.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by DaveL View Post
        Outside of those cases, I can't think of a team withdrawing a qualified car unless it happened before 1970.
        I agree - it was rare.... maybe because it was the one I most recently watched it stands out in my mind, but in 1995 on Day 3, Christian Fittipaldi qualified the #15T at 225.246 around 11am, then withdrew the car later on, with only 29 cars in the field at that point and qualified the #15 at 226.375 around 5:30pm. When the day ended there were only 30 cars in the field.
        As it turned out, both the #15T @ 225.246 and the #15 @ 226.375 would have made the field had the #15T not been withdrawn.

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        • #5
          Walker withdrawing the car Fittipaldi qualified was a pretty surprising and a big risk.

          Now that I remember, in 1994 Ganassi withdrew the original car Gugelmin qualified and he re-qualified at a much faster speed in a different car. The speed set by Mo in the originally qualified car would not have stood up to make the race.
          The Ayn Rand of Indycar

          No one had to badge the Offy.

          Crapping all over threads since 2000.

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          • #6
            The ultimate in matters like this is, of course: Brayton in withdrawing a front row car to have one last shot for the pole...
            But that was in 1996.....

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            • #7
              Also a small detail...it was a rule that a driver couldn’t be attached to two cars in the field at the same time. So if a driver completed a qualifying attempt in car #x, and the team planned to re-qualify with a backup car, the first had to be withdrawn before pulling away for the attempt in the second car.

              If they were going to do it bar none...ala Sullivan in 1987, they wouldn’t hesitate. But if it was late on Bump Day, it was more of a gamble.
              Doctorindy.com

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Doctorindy View Post
                Also a small detail...it was a rule that a driver couldn’t be attached to two cars in the field at the same time. So if a driver completed a qualifying attempt in car #x, and the team planned to re-qualify with a backup car, the first had to be withdrawn before pulling away for the attempt in the second car.

                If they were going to do it bar none...ala Sullivan in 1987, they wouldn’t hesitate. But if it was late on Bump Day, it was more of a gamble.
                Ah ha! And there's the answer. Explains why Gugelmin 94 and Christian Fittipaldi 95 withdrew the qualified cars but the Goodyear/Groff situation worked without having to withdraw.

                Thanks!

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                • #9
                  Another aspect are the teams that withdrew were typically not "satisfied" with making the race and looked to be competitive come race day. Being way down on the speed chart and waiting it out when you've got a good backup, prevents the team from turning their attention to race set-up, which is a disaster come race day. The time factor come bump day works against you as you get within the last hour as well and you essentially give up control and rely on positioning and timing. If you have no other alternatives, then you wait.

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                  • #10
                    There was also a different “status” assigned to a car that was withdrawn versus a car bumped. A car bumped was technically still ranked by its speed...i.e., the 34th fastest car...while bumped, was still 34th and assigned as the first alternate. Sometimes 35th (second alternate) too. That car(s) was considered active and could continue to practice on Carb Day, etc.

                    But a car withdrawn was done for the month. They may as well wheel it directly onto the transporter. I don’t even think teams were technically allowed to harvest any parts off of it either.
                    Doctorindy.com

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Doctorindy View Post
                      Also a small detail...it was a rule that a driver couldn’t be attached to two cars in the field at the same time. So if a driver completed a qualifying attempt in car #x, and the team planned to re-qualify with a backup car, the first had to be withdrawn before pulling away for the attempt in the second car.

                      If they were going to do it bar none...ala Sullivan in 1987, they wouldn’t hesitate. But if it was late on Bump Day, it was more of a gamble.
                      There may be another, intended or unintended, result of that rule. It effectively takes out "designated qualifiers". In other words, you could not have one guy qualify for himself, and qualify four other team cars. Moving a substituted car or driver to the back also helps, but there hae been times that a sub qualifier was needed for the primary driver (see Mario). However, that's one car, one driver.
                      "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".

                      John Kennedy at American University 1963

                      "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

                      A. Lincoln

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Belanger99 View Post

                        There may be another, intended or unintended, result of that rule. It effectively takes out "designated qualifiers". In other words, you could not have one guy qualify for himself, and qualify four other team cars. Moving a substituted car or driver to the back also helps, but there hae been times that a sub qualifier was needed for the primary driver (see Mario). However, that's one car, one driver.
                        I was thinking about that too, and I think while it may not have been a codified rule, it was something the officials didn’t want happening.
                        They would have had to do it the other way around though. If driver A was the designated qualifier, he’d have qualify a car, re-assign it to someone else, qualify car 2, re-assign it to someone else, and so on. By then, the officials would have figured out what was going on, and put a stop to it.
                        Doctorindy.com

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Indyote View Post
                          The ultimate in matters like this is, of course: Brayton in withdrawing a front row car to have one last shot for the pole...
                          But that was in 1996.....
                          I well remember Scott jogging down pit lane with that scrap of paper in his hand and the big grin on his face.

                          Part of Brickyard history forever.

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