From IMS, image courtesy of Chris Jones

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The 2010 Indianapolis 500 will feature a two-week/three-weekend event schedule that provides an opening week of busy daily track activity, two pressure-packed days of qualifications and a traditional Race Week format that includes all of the pageantry of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

There will be 12 days of on-track action during the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, starting with practice for rookies and veterans on Opening Day, Saturday, May 15 and continuing through Race Day, Sunday, May 30.

The streamlined schedule still will offer three full weekends of on-track action for fans while producing efficiencies for Indianapolis 500 teams and IMS. The “500” followed a two-week format from 1998-2000.

IZOD IndyCar Series and IMS officials will announce qualification format details at a later date.

“We’re pleased with the schedule because it provides fans plenty of opportunities to enjoy the excitement of a day at the Speedway while being responsive to the requests of our race teams,” said Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president and chief executive officer. “We look forward to another memorable month of May in Indianapolis.”

Leading the numerous storylines for the 2010 race will be Helio Castroneves’ attempt to become just the fourth driver to earn four Indianapolis 500 victories, joining legends A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Castroneves earned his emotional third Indy victory in May 2009 for Team Penske, giving team owner Roger Penske his record 15th victory at the “500.”

“I commend Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series officials for this change to the month of May schedule,” said Penske. “It will reduce costs for teams on several fronts and provide continuous activity as we build momentum from Opening Day through race weekend. We look forward to the traditional battle on Pole Day and defending our 2009 race victory.”

Daily practice is scheduled for seven consecutive days from Opening Day, Saturday, May 15 through Fast Friday, May 21.

The drama of qualifications will intensify with two days of time trials. Pole Day Qualifications are scheduled for Saturday, May 22, and the remaining spots in the 33-car field will be determined on Bump Day, Sunday, May 23.

“From a competition standpoint, the new Indy 500 schedule will further enhance the drama of qualifications for both the competitors and fans,” said Brian Barnhart, president, competition and operations division for the Indy Racing League, sanctioned body of the IZOD IndyCar Series. “By setting the 33-car grid on one weekend, there’s no room for mistakes by the teams and drivers. The pressure will be on to deliver over the 10 miles regardless of the weather and track conditions.”

Track activity will resume Thursday, May 27 with practice for the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race. Miller Lite Carb Day is Friday, May 28 and will feature a schedule packed with the final Indianapolis 500 practice, the Firestone Freedom 100 race, the annual Pit Stop Challenge for Indianapolis 500 teams and the Miller Lite Carb Day Concert.

The 2010 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday, May 30.

The month of May at IMS will begin for the second consecutive year with the Centennial Era Balloon Festival on Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9, adding another fun weekend at the track. More details will be released soon on the popular event featuring hot-air balloons from across the country.