Indianapolis 500 qualifying is to be cut back to a single-weekend event in 2010.
For most of its history, qualifying for the IndyCar Series' showpiece race has been spread over two weekends, with the most recent format seeing the grid set across four days. Since 2005, the top 11 places have been decided on Pole Day Saturday, positions 12 to 22 on the Sunday afterward, then the final 11 spots the following Saturday before non-qualifiers attempted to get back into the field on the final Bump Day.
The track was available for practice in the week leading up to Pole Day and again between the two qualifying weekends. But, in 2010, Pole Day and Bump Day will both be within the weekend of May 22-23. The Indy Racing League has not yet revealed the precise qualifying format, or how many positions will be decided on each day.
"From a competition standpoint, the new Indy 500 schedule will further enhance the drama of qualifications for both the competitors and fans," said Brian Barnhart, IRL competition president. "By setting the 33-car grid on one weekend, there's no room for mistakes by the teams and drivers. The pressure will be on to deliver over the 10 miles regardless of the weather and track conditions."
The previous format had received some criticism on cost grounds and because it required the teams at the back of the field – invariably those with the smallest budgets – to make the most qualifying attempts and cover more practice mileage.
Penske team boss Roger Penske welcomed the move to a two-day qualifying format, which was last used between 1998 and 2000.
"I commend Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series officials for this change to the month of May schedule," said Penske. "It will reduce costs for teams on several fronts and provide continuous activity as we build momentum from Opening Day through race weekend. We look forward to the traditional battle on Pole Day and defending our 2009 race victory."
Practice for the 2010 Indy 500 will commence on May 15 – a week later than in recent years – with the rookie orientation program, followed by six days of full-field practice. The race is scheduled for May 30.