INDIANAPOLIS – Rain, for the second straight year, washed out pole day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, setting up a busy schedule of qualifying Sunday for the 90th Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
Teams will run for 22 available spots in the field of 33, starting at noon. If necessary, say track officials, qualifying will go beyond 6 p.m., when the gun is traditionally fired to end qualifying for the day.
Third Day and Bump Day qualifying are still set for next weekend.
Asked if qualifying might be extended into Monday or Tuesday if rain plays havoc with Sunday’s runs, IRL spokesman John Griffin said: “Let’s take it one day at a time, please.”
Track activity at the speedway was officially canceled at 2 p.m. Saturday, marking yet another day of rain and cool temperatures.
Instead of cars running for position, drivers were whisked back and forth into the media center for interviews. A few hundred hardy race fans huddled in the stands, hoping for a break in the weather, while oldies rock group Cheap Trick played a soggy concert in Turn 3.
“When you come to Indy, you’ve got to be ready for everything,” said 1998 Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever, who is returning to Indy as a driver for the first time since 2002. “It’s just one of those things that happens. It’s Indiana – the weather can change in two minutes.”
Rahal Letterman’s Danica Patrick, fourth in last year’s race, was taking it in stride.
“The one factor we can’t control here at the track is the weather,” Patrick said.
“We have lost a lot of practice time due to the weather, and as frustrating as it is, you just have to be ready to drive when the opportunity presents itself.”
Michael Andretti, also making an Indy comeback, was wishing the weather away.
“We sit around and twiddle our thumbs, really,” Andretti said. “It’s frustrating, boring and pretty nerve-racking because you just want to get it over with.”
Rookie Marco Andretti, Michael’s son, was more relaxed.
“I would be going crazy if I were the only one that had to wait, but it’s the same for everyone,” the third-generation driver said. “I’m not going to say that I’m not nervous because I am, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what I need to go out there and do.”