INDIANAPOLIS 500 SCHEDULE TO CHANGE FOR 1998
INDIANAPOLIS, September 11, 1997 -- Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announced today that qualifications for the 1998 Indianapolis 500 will be conducted on Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17, the first time in recent history that two qualification days will be used for the race.
The track will open for practice this year on Sunday, May 10, eight days later than in recent years, George said, providing a more intense and entertaining pre-race program.
"This coming May, we will take a step long discussed and considered, and now decided," George said. We will be changing our May practice and qualification schedule to provide more intensity, more action, and a better show for our fans."
Veteran 500 drivers will take to the track on opening day, as will rookies in training. Beginning on Monday and continuing through Friday, the track will be open for practice from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m, with the lunch hour downtime of recent years eliminated.
"We expect to have virtual non-stop action from Opening Day, Sunday, May 10, through the end of Bump Day at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 17, a treat for fans and drivers alike," George said.
Traditional activities at the track will continue, with several additional entertainment activities expected to join the schedule, George said. Sunday, May 10, in addition to being Opening Day, will also be "Save Arnold Day," the popular barbeque that benefits Indiana Special Olympics and hosted by Mari Hulman George, chairman of the board of the Speedway. Armed Forces Day will be celebrated on Sunday, May 17, while Community Day will be Wednesday, May 20. Carburetion Day will be Thursday, May 21, and the Driver's Meeting and 500 Festival Parade downtown will occur on Saturday, May 23.
In addition, FanFest, a free admission entertainment experience for those attending practice or qualifications, will be open at least 10 days during May. George also noted that the Speedway expects to announce additional events happening at the track during May.
"All will be designed to give our customers more for their money, adding value for our fans, and making their visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway more entertaining and more intense," he said.
"These kind of changes in the month of May schedule have been talked about for years, but now the time is right to make them," George said. "The whole world of racing is changing rapidly, and we will change too, when those changes make sense. The time is right for a shorter, more intense practice period. The time is right for a two- day qualifying weekend. The time is right to make this decision, and we have."
Earlier this week, George announced the Speedway will construct a new Master Race Control Tower and other improvements designed to by ready for the May, 2000 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The new Tower, reminiscent in design of the legendary Pagodas which served as control towers from 1913-1956, will be one of the largest construction programs ever undertaken at the Speedway.
The new construction project underscores once again the commitment of the Hulman-George family to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and to the heritage and tradition it represents.