INDIANAPOLIS — After waiting more than three soggy days, IndyCar Series drivers were finally getting a ray of hope Sunday afternoon — only to see the skies open again with a vengeance, delaying Indianapolis 500 pole qualifying until Saturday.
It was the first time in 23 years the first full weekend of qualifying for the race was wiped out by bad weather.
The entire 33-car grid will be filled the same day for the first time since 1999. That won't affect top-rung outfits such as Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, but lower-profile teams such as Vision Racing and Hemelgarn Racing can maintain hopes of qualifying closer to the front.
Sunday will be "bump day," in which the slowest qualified car could be bumped from the lineup of the May 28 race by a faster unqualified car.
The weekend forecast looks encouraging after a week in which showers hampered nearly every practice.
For the fifth year in a row, qualifying was either delayed or washed out.
"It wasn't so much crazy as it was boring," driver Danica Patrick said. "You just sit around. ... It's been just a waiting game."
While they considered moving pole qualifying to today and possibly Tuesday, when the track was to be closed, IRL president Brian Barnhart and track president Joie Chitwood decided against such a scenario. They cited the logistics of short-notice staffing changes and how the schedule would have affected fans.
The qualifying schedule merely dictates the field be filled after the third day of qualifying (Saturday), not how.
One possible downside is that a new qualifying format, where bumping could help determine the top 11 spots, must wait another year before being implemented.
Defending 500 champion Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr. remain pole favorites while nudging closer to 230 mph Sunday. Wheldon twice hit 228 mph before topping out at 228.633, the fastest this month.
Hornish, who was fastest all of last week, was second at 228.220 mph.
Second-year Vision Racing continues to be the biggest surprise, as Ed Carpenter posted a seventh-best speed of 225.262 mph Sunday with teammate Tomas Scheckter four spots back at 225.091.
"The longer the month goes on," Carpenter said, "the longer we wait to qualify, it gives some of the other teams who may not have hit their setup right yet more time to catch up. I'm sure we'll make some more gains by then, as well."