INDIANAPOLIS - The new qualifying format for the Indianapolis 500 had to be tweaked and adjusted in its debut because of persistent rain, which forced the postponement of Pole Day.
The Indy Racing League will condense two days of qualifying into one, with the top 22 positions in the 33-car field to be determined in the qualifying that begins at 1 p.m. today, Toledo time, and runs until 6 p.m. Each driver will have three attempts to post a qualifying time.
The IndyCar drivers will practice on the historic 2.5-mile oval from 10:30 to noon, Toledo time.
"All of this rain is unfortunate, but we can't change the weather," Marlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. said. "We'll just have to wait and see where we stack up against the competition."
Defending IRL IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan said everyone was anxious to get the first qualifying session in after the extensive amount of buildup that takes place preceding the 500.
"You try and focus on qualifying on a particular day," Kanaan said, "but you have to have the ability to ride out the weather if necessary. I would have liked to have qualified today and had it over with, but the rain just wouldn't let us."
Dario Franchitti said the rain comes with the territory when the IndyCar circuit visits the Midwest.
"It seems like we're always dealing with the rain when we come to Indianapolis," Franchitti said. "The conditions are supposed to be much cooler tomorrow so we'll have to change the setup. I think there will be some added pressure to get into the show tomorrow, and be one of those 22 cars that qualify."
RAIN DANCE: The one driver who was all smiles about the rain at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was Buddy Rice, the defending champion in the Indy 500.
Rice, who was injured in a crash on Wednesday, was not cleared by track doctors to qualify this weekend when the first 22 places in the field are to be determined.
That meant the best Rice could do was start 23rd in the grid, but if rain haunts the track again today, forcing the further postponement of pole qualifying, Rice could be back in the running for a top starting spot.
"I'm disappointed for Buddy that it looks like he won't have a chance, but he's still doing a rain dance for tomorrow," Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "But no matter what happens, it won't take him long to get on top come race day."
HORNISH UDATE: Sam Hornish Jr., who walked away from a spectacular Friday afternoon practice crash with just a cut on his knee and a good scare, said the extra day will help, but that he was ready to make a run at the pole yesterday before heavy rains washed out the session.
"I'm feeling better, but actually I didn't feel that bad after the crash happened," the Napoleon resident said. "I was ready to go for qualifying this morning. My knee is getting better, and really, stuff like that doesn't affect you once you get into the car. I saw the video of the whole thing, and it's not that big a deal. It was not as bad as it looked."
DANA UPDATE: Paul Dana, who smashed into the wall in Turn 2 during Friday's practice session and was taken to Methodist Hospital after complaining of back pain remains hospitalized. Tests and further evaluation confirmed that Dana suffered a concussion in the crash, and has a fractured T-7 vertebrae. He is expected to be hospitalized until at least tomorrow.
FOYT GETS OWN RACE: Milwaukee will play host to the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 on July 24. Foyt, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, lends his name to the race, which will be run at the Milwaukee Mile, where he made 98 starts in his career.
"When I first started racing, those were the days when you went driving down the road to the next race, and you were sleeping in the back of the car," Foyt said. "Things have changed. I've had a lot of good times there in Milwaukee, and I ve had some bad times there and ended up in the hospital. The doctors there are great."
ABC Supply is a Wisconsin-based company that is the largest wholesale distributor of roofing and siding materials in the country.