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Indy revamps schedule

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have unveiled a dramatic change in the qualifying procedure for the 2005 Indianapolis 500, turning each of four qualifying days into bump days in an effort to add interest - and draw crowds - to the qualifying sessions leading to the race

"I think that the fact that no longer do the fans come out to look at new track records and escalation," said Tony George, president and CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League. "They have in the last few years been focusing more on the bumping process."

The format will allow just 11 positions to be filled on the grid on each of three qualifying days. After the 11th position is filled, bumping begins. A fourth day of bumping will complete the 33-car field.

"Theoretically you could have a chassis make 12 attempts to qualify throughout the four days of qualifying," Brian Barnhart, the IRL senior vice president of operations. "That also will change even if a car has accepted and completed a four-lap run, if it gets bumped or withdrawn. Historically that car was then removed from competition for the remainder of the month. That car is now eligible for more competition. So we're trying to extend the life of the cars, extend the opportunities provided to cars."

The practice and qualifying schedule, which was expected to be shortened drastically, remained similar to recent years. Most significant is the elimination of the first hour of most practice sessions. The first two days (May 8-9) are held from noon to 5pm local time, but after that each day's schedule is from noon-6pm.

The start time of the race has also been moved back one hour to noon local time, in an attempt to increase lagging TV ratings. The change should bring the end of the race closer to the coveted Sunday late-afternoon time slot, when more viewers are watching televised sports.

In other changes, Carb Day - the last practice session before the race - was moved from Thursday to Friday, and the IRL Infiniti Pro Series race was moved to that day. Also, rookie orientation will be incorporated into the first two days of practice, instead of being held before opening day.

"In terms of a way to kick off the weekend," George said. "We really feel that having this flow into our drivers' meeting on Saturday and parade and into the race on Sunday, it will provide three great days of activities."

Here are the key points of the changes:

Pole Day (Saturday, May 14): The first 11 positions in the 33-car field are filled. Once those spots are taken, bumping begins. Only 11 cars can qualify on the first day.

Second Day (Sunday, May 15): The 12th through 22nd positions are available. Once those spots are full, bumping will occur. The first 11 positions are not affected.

Third Day (Saturday, May 21): The 23rd through 33rd positions are available. Once those spots are full, bumping will occur, but only in spots 23-33.

Bump Day (Sunday, May 22): The slowest qualifying attempt in the 33-car field is up for grabs, regardless of what day the car qualified or where it is on the grid. If the slowest car is bumped, the cars behind that car move up one position on the grid, and the car that did the bumping takes the 33rd position on the grid, or higher if it is faster than other Bump Day qualifiers.

Each car, primary or backup, will have three attempts per day to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. If a car is bumped on any day of qualifications, that entrant can re-enter the qualification line and attempt to re-qualify based on the numbers of attempts remaining for that car. Entrants can still withdraw qualified cars from the field at their choice, but that car will still be allowed to make qualifying attempts based on the number of attempts it has remaining for the day. The car does not have to be removed from competition, as in previous formats. A new start time of noon local time, one hour later than in past years.

A return to the traditional four days of qualifying, expanding from the three days of recent years.

A new date for Carb Day, which shifts to Friday, May 27, from its past Thursday date. The Futaba Freedom 100, the Infiniti Pro Series race, also moves to Carb Day from its previous Saturday date.

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