It's an IndyCar pole dance

Ryan Hunter-Reay in the pits during practice at the Edmonton Indy, Friday July 20, 2012. (David...

Ryan Hunter-Reay in the pits during practice at the Edmonton Indy, Friday July 20, 2012. (David Bloom/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

EDMONTON - So, you win the pole ...

And then you slide down it?

Is this auto racing? Or Snakes and Ladders?

IZOD IndyCar Series racing may be reborn, revamped and relaunched this year to become a more competitive and more interesting series with new cars, more than one engine manufacturer, etc..

But it's also much more confusing.

Edmonton fans are about to find that out when they show up at the Edmonton Indy on race day to watch Ryan Hunter-Reay, the winner of the last three races and new series leader start from the pole he won in qualifying Saturday.

It was a significant accomplishment for RHR.

It was his first ever pole since the merger. Only once before has he won an IndyCar pole, that being in ChampCar in 2004 in Milwaukee.

But he doesn't get to use it.

Oh, he gets to keep the $10,000.

And he gets another point in the series standings.

It's just that if you go to the Edmonton City Centre Airport for the eighth running of the race here and are expecting to see Hunter-Reay up there on the front row for the parade lap and when they wave the green flag, you, uh, won't find him.

He'll be starting 11th.

Andretti Autosport, when they left the Toronto Indy, decided to change Hunter-Reay's Chevy engine before it had run the minimum required 1,850 miles.

There's a 10 position penalty on the starting grid for “unapproved engine change” when that happens.

And if you're looking to find Will Power and Scott Dixon, the two guys who between them have won the last four Edmonton Indy races, drivers who looked to start side-by-side on the fourth row, look down. Waaaaay down.

Power, who won three poles here, will start in 17th. Penske Racing decided to give him a fresh engine for the race before the minimum expiry date of the one he was using.

Oh, and if you are looking to find Dixon on the fourth row, that'll be him in the red No. 9 car in 18th.

Unless, somebody else makes an “unapproved engine change” in the morning, before or after the warm-up. That's when the official grid will actually be made public.

In his case, Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing team didn't make the engine change because of the 1,850 mile rule, they went to their sixth Honda engine of the year, one over the limit of five. Penalty 10 positions.

Simon de Silvestro also went from her fifth to sixth Lotus engine. But her slide is only from 23rd to 25th, being that it's a 25-car field for the race.

There's not enough room on the back of your ticket to print all that. And you could make a case, at least when it comes to the five-engine rule, that it penalizes the fans attending the races at the end of the schedule.

But when it comes to Hunter-Reay, it can happen after an early race of the season. And it did to Ryan Briscoe at Long Beach. He went down to 11th. And moving up to second to take his place was the same guy who will be doing it here, Dario Franchitti.

None of the drivers, including Hunter-Reay, were crying foul when they came off the wet track following the qualifying session.

Indeed, Hunter-Reay was thrilled.

“I'm really happy with that pole,” he said.

“That track was constantly changing throughout the sessions so it was a guess on what line to use. When it is wet, this track is very tricky. So it was great we picked up a championship point. Too bad we will be starting 11th instead of first because of the engine change. The race will be very interesting for everyone.”

Having gone through it himself before, Briscoe said there has to be a rule.

“You have to have something in place where you can't just change engines every session. Comparing it to other series, like Formula One, they have a five spot penalty. Comparatively I think five spots there is like 10 here. It's easier to pass here. I think it's working well, honestly.”

Helio Castroneves said the drivers all have their heads wrapped around it.

“We understand. It keeps the costs down and keeps the series competitive. Manufacturers are actually the ones who asked for these types of rules. It wasn't even the series or the drivers. So I think it's fair.”

Fair, maybe. But also fairly confusing.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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