IRL: Indy500; Race for the pole will be weekend highlight

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 19, 2000 - If practice for the 84th Indianapolis 500 has been any indication, this weekend's qualifications for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," consisting of Saturday's Pole Day and Sunday's MBNA Bump Day, may...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 19, 2000 - If practice for the 84th Indianapolis 500 has been any indication, this weekend's qualifications for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," consisting of Saturday's Pole Day and Sunday's MBNA Bump Day, may be the most memorable in years.

Six different drivers have been fastest in the first six days of Indy Racing Northern Light Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and a number of other contenders have made regular appearances near the top of the speed chart.

Northern Light Series drivers have from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST) Saturday to shoot for the $100,000 PPG Pole Award. The final practice before PPG Pole qualifying takes place from 8-10 a.m. Saturday. Admission to the grounds for each day of qualification weekend is $10 for ages 6 and older, and free for children age 5 and younger.

Top contenders for the coveted PPG Pole this year include two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., 1998 race winner Eddie Cheever Jr., Robby Gordon, Scott Sharp, Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser, the practice leaders through the first six days of the event. Another top prospect is 1999 Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion Greg Ray, who started second in 1998 and 1999.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk won the PPG Pole last year with a four-lap average speed of 225.179 mph. Luyendyk retired after last year's race.

"There is a lot of emphasis on the pole at Indy," Luyendyk said. "It's like the first race of the month, with the race itself being the other. Winning the pole is very exciting. And the $100,000 from PPG is no chump change."

Pole Day qualifications festivities will start at 10:45 a.m. when three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will drive the #4 Pennzoil Chaparral for several ceremonial laps around the 2.5-mile oval. Rutherford won the Indianapolis 500 for the third time with the famous #4 Chaparral in 1980.

MBNA Bump Day activities will be equally exciting Sunday, as Saturday's non-qualifiers will do everything possible to find the extra speed to earn a spot in the elite 33-car starting field for the Indianapolis 500 on May 28. MBNA Bump Day qualifying gets underway at noon, with qualifications ending at 6 p.m. Practice from 10-11:15 a.m. will precede Bump Day qualifying.

Sunday is also Armed Forces Day at the Speedway. Ceremonies honoring the United States Armed Forces will take place at 11:15 a.m. near the start/finish line. The ceremonies will feature a fly-over by F-16 military jets and a parachute drop. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana will conduct an honorary swearing-in ceremony for members of all five branches of the Armed Forces.

Military air and ground equipment will be on display the entire weekend in the east parking lot of the Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum.

The Hall of Fame Museum, which features numerous historic racing and passenger automobiles and artifacts from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will be open to the public from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. The museum admission fee is $3 for adults age 16 and older, $1 for children ages 6-15 and free for children age 5 and younger.

-IRLNS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Jimmy Vasser , Johnny Rutherford