The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was busy on Friday with most of the drivers already qualified for the Indy 500 on the track working on their race setups and 13 others trying to find the speed to qualify in time trials this weekend.
"At this point in the month, it's not so much about the speed on one lap," said 2007 Indy winner Dario Franchitti, one of 22 drivers who qualified last weekend. "It's about balance and how the car handles in traffic and how it runs through a full tank of fuel.
"We're getting there," added Franchitti, who will start the May 24 race from the outside of the front row. "We're making some progress. Any track time we can get is beneficial. ... We're trying to get everything we can get now and keep working on the car."
Others felt a much greater sense of urgency.
Indy rookie Stanton Barrett, hoping to fill one of the remaining 11 positions in the 33-car field, was focused getting comfortable enough on the 2.5-mile oval to do a solid, four-lap qualifying run when time trials reopen Saturday.
"We just keep working on it," said Barrett, a NASCAR journeyman who also works part time as a stuntman in movies and TV. "Work on setup and get stability and grip and speed, that's all we've been working on in different combinations.
"... The idea is to try to stay patient and not try and do anything too quick or fast."
Barrett ran 35 laps Friday with a top speed of 218.499 mph.
The big question for the drivers still hoping to make the race by being one of the fast 11 on Saturday, or by bumping out the slowest qualifiers in Sunday's final round of time trials, is how much speed will they need?
Townsend Bell, who didn't get into his KV Racing Technology car until Thursday, was fastest among the non-qualified drivers Friday at 222.139 mph. But he expects it will take more than that to make the race.
"I really believe we can do some solid 223s in qualifying but, certainly, it depends on the weather and the track conditions tomorrow," said Bell, who hopes to join teammates and first-week qualifiers Mario Moraes and Paul Tracy in the lineup. "The speed should be there."
The slowest of the first-week qualifiers was Davey Hamilton at 221.956.
The veteran of eight Indy starts said he feels "fairly comfortable" with that speed, but adds, "I kind of wish we'd have been able to go out again and put up a little higher number."
Working on race setup Friday, Hamilton put in 50 laps with a top speed of 219.699.
Tomas Scheckter, getting his ride with Dale Coyne Racing on Friday morning, said he wasn't too concerned about the speed it will take to make the field, just with getting used to his car as quickly as possible.
Scheckter was reunited with engineer Bill Pappas, with whom he worked while driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2003, the year he finished fourth, his best showing in seven Indy starts.
"I had a great run at Indy with Bill, and I like what Dale has done with the team and (what teammate) Justin (Wilson) has done in the car," Scheckter said. "I'm confident Bill can give me a good car, and what's also good is that we don't have to build a relationship. We understand each other.
"Hopefully, we can get up to speed quickly and start moving the program forward."
He did just that, turning a fast lap of 220.516 in 37 laps.
Others working on their qualifying setup Friday included 1996 race winner Buddy Lazier, Oriol Servia, John Andretti, E.J. Viso, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Milka Duno and Indy rookies Robert Doornbos, Alex Tagliani, Mike Conway and Nelson Philippe.
Some of them had a much bigger hill to climb than others.
Philippe was the slowest of the 31 drivers on the 2.5-mile oval Friday, but his fast lap of 217.956 was considerably better than the 205.718 he topped out with Thursday.
"I was just really uncomfortable with the car," the Frenchman said Thursday after driving a car rebuilt after he crashed it in practice on Saturday. "I've never been so scared in my life. I think when the guys put the car back together, I think something is wrong."
He was feeling a lot better about the car and the track on Friday.
"This is something we can work with," Philippe said. "It's just going to take a little more speed."
The practice was cut short by 17 minutes because several of the bricks that form the finish line on the track came loose. Track officials said they expected the problem to be repaired in plenty of time for Saturday's action.
Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner, was fastest on Friday at 222.799, followed by Moraes at 222.530, Bell, pole-winner and two-time champion Helio Castroneves at 221.699, his Penske Racing teammate Ryan Briscoe at 221.567 and Franchitti at 221.192.
Servia, in only his second day in the Rahal Letterman Racing entry, was next at 221.140, with Doornbos and Tagliani both at 220.804.