IRL: Rain moves Pole Day to Sunday

The weather scotched MBNA Pole Day qualifying for the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and put paid to the ambitious scheme of having starting positions 1-11 locked in on this day and positions 12-22 locked in for Sunday.

Heavy rain falls on Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photo by Shawn Payne - IRL.
After watching radar screens that indicated no foreseeable let-up to the constant rain showers and thunderstorms that have inundated the Midwest since Friday afternoon, Indy Racing League IndyCar Series officials, together with Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff made the correct decision to postpone time trials until Sunday.

The qualifying order remains the same for Sunday, which becomes MBNA Pole Day and bumping will ensue once the fastest 22 drivers have taken their four timed laps. Qualifying will take place on Sunday from noon until 6PM EST.

A 90 minute morning practice session will give drivers a chance to give the track some adhesion as they perform first in two separate groups starting at 9:30AM followed by an all-skate session ending at 11:00AM.

There will be an added wrinkle to this scenario as forecasts are calling for very cool temperatures in the Indianapolis area, which will make it difficult for drivers to get their Firestone Firehawk tires up to proper operating temperatures.

At this point the forecast calls for temperatures edging 60 degrees; these racing slicks must have a minimum of 55 degrees to function properly.

Today is not the first time MBNA Pole Day has been rained out; rather, this is the third straight occasion it's rained on this particular Saturday and, in 2004 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway suffered from wet weather patterns on Fast Friday as well.

Rain falls on garage area.
Photo by Shawn Payne - IRL.
Brian Barnhart, president and COO of the Indy Racing League explained the decision to postpone: "It's very disappointing but we can't control the weather. We decided the format for fan excitement and we're sorry to disappoint everyone who came out. We lost out on that opportunity today but we'll carry on with the program tomorrow," Barnhart explained.

The choice to have the top 22 cars locked in at the end of Sunday's MBNA Pole Day "may change what happens with positions 8-12, as to whether they'll go back out to improve and I think you'll see a bit more activity as teams work to make sure they get in those top 22 spots."

Barnhart is worried about cool temperatures on Sunday. "We're adding a third warm-up lap in the hopes of building tire pressure and temperatures. If it's cooler than we anticipated, it's possible we may permit tire warmers, but at this time we don't expect to use them."

After discussing the matter with officials from the sanction, the track, teams and suppliers, "It's in everyone's best interest to do it this way. As you know qualifying has evolved since the first 500-mile race in 1911 when grid positions were determined by the date an entry was received. We've always had interesting and unique qualifying procedures here and that hasn't changed.

"Because we know the fans like to see track records and bumping during qualifying, we feel this procedure (having one day of MBNA Pole Day to secure the top 22 positions) is in the best interests of everyone.

"Had we tried," Barnhart admitted, '"to get the time trials in today, it would not have been fair to everyone. We have made this decision in the belief that this is the right way to have a fair deal for everyone involved."