Ken de la Bastide: Indy 500 shouldn't guarantee starting spots

Feb. 6—Some traditions are so important to a particular sport it doesn't seem conceivable they would ever change.

For the entire history of the Indianapolis 500, the starting field of 33 teams has been determined through four-lap qualifying.

The fastest 33 teams compete for the victory. In some years, the power house teams were left on the outside looking in on race day.

Just last year Graham Rahal didn't post a time among the fastest 33 and was out of the race. He did race when Stephen Wilson couldn't compete.

This week Roger Penske floated the idea of having guaranteed starting spots in the Indy 500 for those teams competing with the Indy Racing League on a full-time basis.

The details are still being ironed out, but it appears between 22 and 25 teams will be guaranteed a spot on the starting grid.

It can only be called a serious lack of judgement on the part of Penske.

Part of the excitement in the month of May is for the fans to watch and see which teams make the starting line-up.

Hopefully this is an idea being considered by Penske that will not see the light of day when the month of May arrives.

The Little 500 at Anderson Speedway each May has the 33 starting positions determined by qualifying times.

It builds fan interest on the first day of qualifying for the pole position and adds potential excitement on "bump day."

I have never been a fan of the NASCAR charter system which guarantees 36 teams a place on the starting grid.

The result of the charter system is NASCAR is conducting Cup races with less than full fields every weekend.

With the Daytona 500 just weeks away, a real question is will there be more than 36 teams looking to compete?

For those teams without a charter, it means they have to race their way into the Daytona 500 grid in two qualifying races.

There is a place in racing to reward teams competing on a full-time basis.

Back in the American Speed Association days, the top 20 in the points standings were guaranteed a starting spot.

It's a system still used by many short-track series around the country.

By locking in 20 teams, in most instances, it allows 16 drivers the opportunity to race their way into an event based on qualifying.


The field for the Little 500 now stands at 37 entries.

Ohio veteran Jimmy McCune, who has won numerous winged sprint car races at Anderson Speedway, is returning for the Little 500.

McCune has made 16 starts over the years, with the last coming in 2019. He has recorded four top-10 finishes with a career best of ninth in 2007.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.