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'Opening Day' dawns at last for Indy 500

Saturday is "Opening Day" for the centennial Indianapolis 500. Here's a preview of the next two weeks of activity, including the qualifying process, track facts and some race history.
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.

Opening Day 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.

Fast Friday 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.

Pole Day 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.

Bump 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.




Related Pictures

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15-21 MAY, 2010, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA Borg Warner trophy.
Chevy Racing sweeps the podium with race winner Sebastien Bourdais (center), driver of the #11 Hydroxycut KVC Racing Technology Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the first of two IndyCar Series races in Toronto, Canada. Second-place finisher Helio Castroneves (left), driver of the #3 PPV Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, and third-place finisher Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, join the celebration. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a fourteenth-place finish Saturday, July 13, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Power lost the championship points lead to teammate Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, who finished eighth. (Photo by Dan Streck/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, races to a third-place finish Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V6, takes over the championship points lead with an eighth-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V6, took over the championship points lead with an eighth-place finish Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Brett Moist/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo by Brett Moist/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Hunter-Reay waits on pitlane prior to practice at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson and Charlie Kimball go side-by-side for the start of the Pocono INDYCAR 500 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay with an early pit stop during the Pocono INDYCAR 500 (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson exits Turn 2 during practice for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson waits on pit lane prior to qualifications for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates second place (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves on pit road (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves leads Ryan Briscoe (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves on pit lane prior to qualifications for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves heads down the Long Pond Straightaway during practice for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, July 6, 2014 during the Pocono IndyCar 500 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag as he races to victory Sunday, July 6, 2014 during the Pocono IndyCar 500 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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