INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, July 7, 2000 -- The tradition of the month of May in Indianapolis being devoted to the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race will return in 2001, with a three-week schedule that includes two weeks of practice and two weekends...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, July 7, 2000 -- The tradition of the month of May in Indianapolis being devoted to the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race will return in 2001, with a three-week schedule that includes two weeks of practice and two weekends of qualifying, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George announced today. Opening Day for the 85th Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, May 6, with Pole Day on Saturday, May 12 and Bump Day -- the final day of qualifications - Saturday, May 19. Coors Carb Day is Thursday, May 24, with Race Day on Sunday, May 27. "Beginning in 2001, we will once again open the Speedway for practice during the first weekend of May, giving more opportunity for teams who wish to compete in the 500 adequate time to practice and prepare," George said. The schedule was shortened to two weeks beginning in 1998, taking a number of factors into consideration. However, a combination of an April Open Test and more private testing resulted in a trend of increased practicing over a longer period of time. In 2000, teams ran 21,000 miles in open and private tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in March and April, up 2,000 miles over 1999. "We believe it will be good for our teams, the city and our fans to return to a three-week schedule with more of the practicing happening during May and less during March and April," George said. "If teams are going to practice more, we would rather have it be in May." The April Open Test at the Speedway will be discontinued. Private testing will be allowed during March and April, limited to two days per team. "By expanding the May schedule, we are making the Indianapolis 500 more accessible to teams that wish to compete," George said. "For teams or drivers competing in other series who wish to compete in the Indianapolis 500, this new schedule will offer more flexibility since it will feature an expanded qualifying schedule and more practice days." <pre> The 2001 Indianapolis 500 schedule: *Saturday, May 5: 500 Festival Mini Marathon *Sunday, May 6: Opening Day, 85th Indianapolis 500 *Monday, May 7-Friday, May 11: Practice *Saturday, May 12: Pole Day, first day of qualifications *Sunday, May 13: Second-day qualifying *Monday, May 14-Tuesday, May 15: Track closed *Wednesday, May 16-Friday, May 18: Practice *Saturday, May 19: Bump Day, final day of qualifications *Sunday, May 20-Wednesday, May 23: Track closed *Thursday, May 24: Coors Carb Day *Sunday, May 27: Race Day, 85th Indianapolis 500 </pre> George pointed out the return to a two-weekend qualification schedule will help to ensure adequate time for teams to rebuild cars between qualifications and Race Day.
"We have been fortunate the last three years to have completed qualifying on one weekend," George said. "If we cannot, it would be very difficult for teams to rebuild cars, which have practiced hundreds of miles for qualifications, between delayed qualifications and Race Day." The experience of the last three years had been instructive, but the lesson learned was that the Indianapolis 500 deserves to have the third week reinstated, George said. "We are not afraid to make changes when they are warranted, and this, I firmly believe, is a change for the good," he said. George said he has communicated with Indy Racing League officials and teams, CART officials, city and state officials, the 500 Festival, the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and other interested parties about the change and found all of them supportive. "We are making this announcement in plenty of time for everyone to make their plans and decisions accordingly," George said.