The American motor sports fans do love naming their "days": from Opening Day to Pole Day, then Bump Day to Carb Day and finally Race Day itself, there's a lot of activity in store over the next 15 days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the race itself on Sunday May 29.
Although "Opening Day" is the first day that the Speedway is opened up to all the teams for on-track activity, there have already been a series of events at the facility, starting with the track being used for part of the route of a local mini-marathon through the streets of the city of Indianapolis last Sunday, together with a balloon festival and a fireworks display.
Things got down to earth with more serious business on Tuesday with the launch of the new 2012 Dallara Indycar chassis
designs, and then Thursday saw the Rookie Orientation Program
start the first actual on-track action for seven of the rookies bidding to make the starting grid. And yesterday - Friday, May 13 - allowed the Firestone Indy Lights teams their first taste of IMS with a four hour open test session ahead of the Firestone Freedom 100 support race in a fortnight.
itself on Saturday, May 14 sees all the IndyCar teams eligible to take to the track for the first time from noon until 6pm (local time.) That will allow the drivers to get used to the Speedway, and let the teams start dialling in the car to the track conditions.
The rest of the week continues to see the track open every day between noon and 6pm for IndyCar practice, with the morning period being used for Indy Experience two-seater and pace car rides.
on May 20 is when the main contingent of race fans start arriving and the stands fill up with spectators for the final six-hour practice session, which is usually when the teams are fine-tuning their qualifying pace and therefore should see some of the fastest laps of the week so far.
on Saturday, May 21 is the first of the two qualifying days. After a final two hour practice period, the cars start to run qualifying laps between 11am and 4pm (local times), in an order determined by blind draw the day before. Each car gets to make three qualification attempts consisting of four laps comprising 10 miles in total. Drivers will generally be qualifying both their main car and their T-car (spare).
At the end of the first qualifying segment (which incidentally sets pit stall order), the fastest nine cars have a further 90 minute session between 4.30pm and 6pm that afternoon as a "shootout" to lock-in the positions of the front three rows of the Indy 500 race, including pole position: last year's pole position speed was an impressive 227.970 mph, set by Penske's Helio Castroneves. The order
of the cars between 10th and 24th is also set - but they can still be "bumped" from the grid altogether by events on the following day.
on Sunday, May 22 starts with a one-hour free practice, then cars are back on track between noon and 6pm for further four-lap qualifying runs with the cars that didn't make it into the top 24 on Saturday competing to get it into the remaining nine positions available on the grid.