The Indianapolis 500 has used several methods of qualifying throughout the years, but the four-lap qualifying distance has been used every year since 1939.
The 2012 qualifying process includes two days of four-lap time trials, which take place on Saturday and Sunday and result in a 33-car field.
The first day is called "Pole Day" and drivers compete for 24 of the 33 spots. The top nine finishers return for another qualifying run called "The Fast Nine." The top finisher in "The Fast Nine" earns the pole position for the race, and the other eight are locked into their top-nine starting positions in order of their finish.
Day two is labeled "Bump Day" and drivers compete for the remaining nine spots. Once those are filled, drivers who finished outside of "The Fast Nine" can be bumped out of the field by qualifiers who come in with a better time. A bumped driver is not automatically out of the field -- he can continue attempts at qualifying until his limit of three daily attempts is reached.
Once the qualifying is complete, spots 10-33 are sorted based on which day the drivers qualified and their qualifying times. All day one qualifiers are given priority, and day two qualifiers receive the final spots in the field.
The 2012 Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Schedule follows:
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
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