2012 Indianapolis 500: A Closer Look At The Qualifying Process

May 17, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar series driver Justin Wilson drives down pit road during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Qualifying for the 2012 Indy 500 begins Saturday and we break down the two-day process.

The 2012 Indianapolis 500 is quickly approaching, but before we get to the May 27 race, the drivers first need to qualify. Over the years, the Indy 500 qualifying process has varied slightly, but the current process has been used since 2010.

Unlike previous years when there were four days of qualifying, the current process just lasts two, the Saturday and Sunday before the race. Qualifications consist of a four-lap, 10-mile time trail with each car able to have three qualification attempts per day.

The first day of qualification is known as "Pole Day" and 24 of the 33 spots are up for grabs. Once the first portion of qualifying is complete, the top nine qualifiers take part in "The Fast Nine." Each of the nine drivers must make at least one four-lap qualifying attempt during "The Fast Nine." Each driver's best time during "The Fast Nine" session is used and the first nine starting spots are locked in.

Day two of qualifying is known as "Bump Day" and the final nine spots are up for grabs. Drivers who qualified in spots 10-24 on day one can also be bumped from the field on day two. Like day one, day-two qualifications consist of a four-lap time trial. Once the remaining nine spots are filled, bumping begins. If an unqualified driver posts a faster time than any qualified driver in spots 10-33, the slower qualifier will be bumped from the field. If a previously qualified driver is bumped from the field, they can attempt another qualification run, assuming they haven't used their three attempts for the day.

Once qualifying ends on day two, the 33-car field is set. Starting spots are determined by the day the driver qualified and trial time. Drivers who qualified on day one, but were not in "The Fast Nine" are given priority. Drivers who qualified on day two are then given the remaining starting spots, even if they posted a faster time than a day-one qualifier.

2012 Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Schedule

May 19: Qualifying from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET

May 19: Fast Nine from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET

May 20: Qualifying from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET

For more on Indy racing including the 2012 Indianapolis 500, please visit Pop Off Valve.

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