Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The usual Month of May at the track has been reduced to Two Weeks in May with one week of practice and one weekend of qualifying leading up to the May 30 running of the race.
Qualifying is set for May 22, when the first 24 spots in the field will be filled, and for May 23 when the remaining nine spots will be filled followed by bumping.
In addition to the condensed schedule, a shootout is slated among the fastest nine drivers on the first day of qualifying for the pole with the fast qualifier receiving more money than in the past.
More than 40 driver-car entries have been received for the race including a record five women: Danica Patrick, Ana Beatriz, Simona DeSilvestro, Milka Duna, Sarah Fisher.
Patrick will be in her sixth 500 and has had top finishes in the premier IZOD IndyCar Series event. She led the race in her first race in 2005 and finished fourth.
Since then, she has had finishes of eighth twice, 22nd and third a year ago when Helio Castroneves won in Indy for the third time.
Patrick talked about the race and the practice schedule Friday.
She said she always enjoyed the month of activity at the track. “It will be interesting to see the balance of qualifying runs and race runs in the one week of practice. Being with a big team should help me and others. You can never have enough practice [for this race],” she said.
Patrick has started fourth and fifth in the 500 and never worse than 10th.
She says she is fortunate that her driving approach — being patient and running a smooth race — has been a key to her good finishes in the 500.
She says the shootout will be akin to qualifying twice for the nine drivers involved in the pole run.
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule began with four road-street courses with only one race on an oval track at Kansas Speedway.
“I don't like the [present] schedule with the road races and just short track race. There are several tracks where I still wish we had events,” she said on the teleconference.
She hasn't had a good start to the season. “It is what it is. I just need to buckle down and stay positive mentally … be in the right frame mentally,” says Patrick.
Several drivers will make their 2010 debut in the 500 including Marshall, Ill., native Ed Carpenter. He will be in a Panther Racing/Vision Racing car and one of his sponsors will be golf pro Fuzzy Zoeller, who will be promoting his wine products.
Singer-songwriter Jewel has been named to sing the National Anthem on race day. Robin Roberts of ABC-TV will drive the pace car.
Indy 500 schedule
Today — gates open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., drivers practice (veterans noon to 2 p.m., rookies 2 to 6); live music: Stereo Deluxe 3-3:45, Everclear 4-5:30
Sunday — gates open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., drivers practice (veterans noon to 2 p.m., rookies 2 to 6); live music: Psychodots 2:30-3:45, Sarah Fisher signs book 4:45-5:30 (Retail Garage 33)
Monday-Thursday — gates open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., practice noon to 6 p.m.
Friday — gates open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., practice noon to 6 p.m.
May 22 — gates open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., pole day qualifying practice 8-10 a.m.,qualifying for first 24 spots 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with shootout for nine fastest beginning at 4:30
May 23 — gates open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., bump day qualifying practice 9 to 10 a.m., qualifying noon to 6 p.m.