The NTT IndyCar Series teams are busy finalizing their daily running plans for this year’s non-spectator 104th Indianapolis 500.
With the release of the master schedule governing all on- and off-track activities for the event, drivers, engineers, and crew chiefs have a clearer road map of how to budget their time to maximize six total days of action before the green flag waves over the Indy 500 field on Sunday, August 23.
Wednesday, Aug. 12, marks the official start of practice, and with no pre-event Open Test for Indy newcomers to complete their Rookie Orientation Programs, or for veterans who’ve been on the sidelines to conduct their ‘Refresher’ runs, IndyCar has set 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT for veterans to get in two hours of lapping before handing the track over, from 1:00-3:00 p.m., for ROP and Refreshers.
With veterans heading out first, it gives teams a chance to work on setups as they learn about the new aeroscreen on a superspeedway, and make any necessary chassis or aerodynamic changes that might be passed along before rookies and other veterans have the track to themselves. Also look for teams with veterans and rookies to have their experienced drivers climb into the cars their rookies will drive to confirm the handling is correct before letting the novices turn their first laps.
Once ROPs and Refreshers are done, all cars will be welcome to run from 3:00-5:30 p.m.
Once Wednesday’s unique format with three separate sessions has passed, Thursday and Friday fall into a simple 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. schedule for all cars.
‘Fast Friday’ has some newfound fun to offer when the entire field is given maximum turbocharger boost to perform simulated qualifying runs ahead of time trials on Saturday and Sunday. One aspect to follow is when each team starts to post significantly faster lap speeds, which will signal the timing of their move from race boost to qualifying boost.
The switch to high boost is at the discretion of each team, and with a highly limited amount of time to work on race setups, a greater number of teams could opt to use more of Friday for race preparations than in the past.
Drawing for the qualifying order is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.
Fans who want to follow along will have live streaming coverage provided from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Wednesday through Friday on NBC Gold.
When Saturday, Aug. 15, arrives, the field of 33 will be split into two groups, with Group 1 taking the 8:30-9:00 a.m. practice slot, and Group 2 venturing out from 9:00-9:30 a.m. NBC Gold will cover the action from 8:30-9:30. Qualifying begins at 11:00 a.m. and goes through 4:50 p.m. Those who qualify inside the Fast Nine will run again on Sunday to determine the pole winner and establish who starts where in the top nine.
Those who qualify from 10th to 33rd place on Saturday are locked into those positions, and are done running until the Fast Nine session is finished the following day.
The entire 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. stretch will be offered on NBC Gold. For those who prefer to watch on TV, NBC will be live from 3-5 p.m.
Assuming a 34th entry does not appear and trigger the need for bumping, Sunday will have three sessions to host with a Fast Nine practice from 11:00-11:30 a.m.; Fast Nine qualifying from 1:15-2:15 p.m.; and a practice for all qualifiers from 3:30-6:00 p.m.
Outside of NBC handling the Fast Nine from 1:00-3:00 p.m., NBC Gold will cover the rest of Sunday’s sessions.
With no Monday practice, Sunday’s late running will be the last time teams will turn laps until Carb Day on Friday, Aug. 21. Final practice is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and will be aired on NBCSN and NBC Gold.
Due to the absence of fans, standard Carb Day festivities, including the pit stop competition and Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, will not be held.
Race day will see teams start the process of rolling their cars out to pit lane at 12:45 p.m., and at 2:23 p.m., the command to start engines will get the 104th Indy 500 in motion. The green flag is estimated for 2:30 p.m., with coverage on NBC spanning 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Despite assembling a fine master list, local weather could force one or more adjustments. At present, the 10-day forecast calls for thunderstorms during every on-track session. The schedule is also subject to further changes, regardless of weather.