Heat races will return to Iowa Speedway for this weekend's IndyCar event but will be 20 laps longer and also pay championship points.
Perhaps wanting to add some excitement to their standard oval track qualifying procedure or as an alternative to the flawed Texas Motor Speedway Saturday doubleheader, three 30-lap heat races were created to set the grid for the 2012 race.
For the 2013 event, those races have been expanded to 50 laps each and will have a completely new format. Last year used practice times the day before to set the grid for each race with the slowest teams in the first heat, midpack in the second heat and fastest teams in the final heat -- there was no option to transfer and thus no incentive to race.
The starting lineup for the 2013 heats will be decided by one-lap time trials. The fastest six (Firestone Fast Six in a sense) will automatically qualify for the final pole deciding heat race. Heat one will consist of even-numbered teams starting with the eighth-fastest qualifier on down.
The top two finishers will advance to the third heat with everyone else setting the field for the Sunday race, even positions 12th on down.
Heat two will feature the odd-numbered teams starting with the seventh-fastest qualifier. And like the first heat, the top two finishers from the second heat will also advance to the third heat. Everyone else will set the field for the Sunday race, odd positions 11th on down.
The final heat race will be made up of the Fast Six from qualifying plus the four transfer drivers from the first two heats. This heat will determine the first five rows of the grid for the Sunday race as well as pay championship points.
The third heat winner will receive nine points with the point value decreasing by one for each spot. Ninth and 10th will receive two points each and 11th and 12th will receive one point each (see chart below).
Ed Carpenter, an oval track ace, is looking forward to the heat race format because outside of the month-long Indianapolis 500, Iowa pays more points than any other standard event.
"It's an exciting format," Carpenter said. "I think it's something different. INDYCAR has been good about trying new things. Especially at a place like Iowa, which is Sprint car country, it's familiar for the race fans that are there."
The three heat races will be streamed online Saturday night at 6:45 ET on IndyCar.com. The Indy Iowa Corn 250 will take place on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 ET and will be televised on ABC.
Heat race points payout:
Pole - 9 points
2nd - 8 points
3rd - 7 points
4th - 6 points
5th - 5 points
6th - 4 points
7th - 3 points
8th - 3 points
9th - 2 points
10th - 2 points
11th - 1 point
12th - 1 point