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Indianapolis 500 Race: Annual Schedule of Events

Updated on September 26, 2012
Indy 500
Indy 500 | Source

The Indianapolis 500 is widely known as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Held on Memorial Day weekend each year, the IndyCar race has a consistent schedule of fun and racing each year. Below is an outline of the annual schedule of events for the Indianapolis 500 race

The schedule of events for the Indianapolis 500 begins two full weeks before the race itself. More than just cars zooming around the track, this series of events marks a variety of activities for one and all!

Indianapolis 500 Opening Day

On Saturday two weeks before the race, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens its gates to the public. Visitors are invited to the opening ceremonies and to get their first visit to the Speedway for the year, and the drivers take their first laps around the track.

On opening day, the Pace Car is also unveiled. The Pace Car leads the other cars at the start of the race, and also comes out onto the track to lead the cars if the race goes into a caution period. The Pace Car is a tradition at the Indy 500, and a different make and model are chosen each year. A celebrity is selected to drive the Pace Car each year, adding even more excitement to the race!

Indy Cars
Indy Cars | Source

Drivers Practice for the Indianapolis 500

The week after opening day is dedicated to racing teams, allowing them to practice and get accustomed to the 2.5-mile oval track. There are many more teams practicing than will qualify for the race. Only 33 drivers will qualify to participate in the race itself. As speeds increase throughout the week, the practice days are a great sight for fans!

Fast Friday culminates Driver Practice Week as the teams compete for the prize awarded to the fastest driver of the day. The teams also draw for spots to officially qualify for the race. All their practice will lead to exciting qualifying laps in the next two days!

Pace Car
Pace Car | Source

The 2.5-mile track is easily visible from satellite view

Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
4790 W 16th St, Indianapolis, IN 46222, USA

get directions

Indy 500 Qualifications

The Saturday before Race Weekend is called Pole Day, and it begins the official qualifying for spots in the famed Indy 500 race. Quite a few teams will vie for spots in the race on Pole Day, providing a lot of excitement for the spectators.

The fastest driver to qualify on Pole Day is awarded the Pole Position, which is the first position on the track to start the race. Along with this coveted starting location, the driver on the Pole also receives a cash prize and is forever recorded as the "pole sitter" for that year's Indy 500.

Immediately following Pole Day is Bump Day, which is the last day for racing teams to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. It is called "Bump Day" because, if a team qualifies this day with a faster time than one of the teams who already qualified, the slower team could get bumped out of the race. No one knows until the end of the day whether their spot in the race is set! Bump Day is the most exciting day of qualifying!

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Source

Race Week

On Community Day, the race teams get a break from practicing today to give back to the community. Held the Wednesday before the race, visitors can tour the pit lane and the famous Pagoda, and can get driver autographs. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is open, and you can even drive your car around the famous track! Community Day attracts visitors who are interested in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself, in addition to the race.

The Thursday before the race is known as Carb Day (short for "Carburation Day"). Known for its "rocking and racing" atmosphere, Carb Day begins with the final practice for the drivers. Next is the Indy Lights race, followed by the annual Pit Stop Challenge. A massive concert in the afternoon rounds out a day of fun!

All 33 drivers ride in the 500 Festival Parade on Race Weekend.
All 33 drivers ride in the 500 Festival Parade on Race Weekend.

Indy 500 Race Weekend

The day before the race (Saturday) is the 500 Festival Parade. Covering two miles of downtown Indianapolis, the parade is a nice change of pace from the fast driving. The parade contains local and national marching bands, floats, balloons, and celebrities. Additionally, all 33 drivers who qualified for the race ride in individual cars in the parade. The drivers' parade cars are lined up in rows of three, in the same order as they will drive in the race.

The Indianapolis 500 itself is run on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which is the last weekend in May. The race is 500 miles long, and the drivers top 200 miles per hour. The race lasts several hours, and is full of excitement. Although no seat in the Speedway can view the entire track, jumbo screens are provided so that everyone can see the cars wherever on the track they are. On race day, 500 miles of excitement round out two weeks of fun events.

The cars are a blur driving by during the Indy 500!
The cars are a blur driving by during the Indy 500! | Source


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    • Amy Gillie profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy Gillie 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      I'm so glad this brings back nice memories, Marcy. I used to live near the Speedway, and it is quite a spectacle! Thanks for reading.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      The Indy 500 always reminds me of my dad - he loved that annual race! Sometimes he and some friends (or my oldest brother) would drive over from our home in Ohio and watch the race from the center of the track (I'm not sure how they were able to do that, but they did). He paid close attention every year to who was racing and what they drove.

      Thanks for this guide to how that famous race is executed each year - sure brings back memories for me!


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