I'm counting down the days until the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
I'm not a race fan in the fanatic sense. I've only been to the Indy 500 a handful of times. My memories center around listening to the race on the radio in the backyard while filling out the leading laps grid from the Indianapolis Star.
I do love Indianapolis, tradition, and most of all a theme! Each day I will share a memory or tidbit of history.
"Pole day" - the day - and the method - the pole sitter is determined has changed over the years.
As an avid letter writer, I would have had a chance to hold the pole position in the early years.
In 1911 the starting grid was determined by the order that entries were received by mail. Yep, by mail.
To qualify for the race, entrants had to average 75 miles per hour along a "flying" quarter-mile measured segment of the track. Each car was given three attempts and speeds were not recorded.
In 1912, all cars were required to complete one timed lap (2.5 miles) at a minimum speed, but the grid order was still determined by the order the entries were received.
In 1913 and 1914, all cars completed one timed lap at a minimum speed to qualify. Overseas competitors complained about their entries arriving in the mail later than local entrants, and thus starting deeper in the grid. A compromise was made - the grid was determined by a blind draw a few days before the race.
Starting in 1915 the grid order was determined by a one-lap qualifying speed. Though multiple days were allotted for qualifying - then referred to as the "elimination trials", drivers were known to wait until the last minute to qualify -I can relate to that!
Even though the track was typically available for practice starting on May 1st, many teams chose not to even arrive until just before elimination trials.
In 1916, the first day qualifiers were lined up in order by speed. The second day qualifiers would line up behind the first day qualifiers, and so on, even if subsequent days drivers were faster than earlier qualifiers. With a few tweaks, that general grid alignment rule was used through the 2000s.