The 93rd Indianapolis 500 - the second of the reunified era - boasts the race's highest quality field in years, despite the economic turbulence affecting the world.
With an abundance of unemployed top drivers available for Indy one-offs, the final weekend of qualifying featured former IndyCar and Champ Car race winners Robert Doornbos, Oriol Servia, Tomas Scheckter, Alex Tagliani, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Bruno Junqueira squabbling over the back few rows of the grid, giving the event huge strength in depth.
There was an austerity feel to this battle - many top teams and drivers are running limited mileage or part-month deals on their equipment to save funds - but that just means the 2009 race has a particularly high calibre of underdog. For so many drivers who deserve full-time rides, this could be their only chance to catch a team or sponsor's eye all season, making race day all the more intense.
At the front, Penske had the early edge in practice and delivered a 1-2 on the grid, although Ganassi was never far behind and Andretti Green is creeping back into contention.