The 98th Indianapolis 500 gets underway on this Sunday, May 25th. Josh (JF) and Tom (TF) will have a look team by team.
1) JF : Ed Carpenter. Carpenter won the pole for the second straight year at the 500. Carpenter has always adapted well to the speedway and is one of the best guys on ovals and can legitimately win the 500. Carpenter led the most laps in the year’s 500 miler but was not in the lead pack at the end of the race and thus was unable to get to the front. If he can stay in the lead group, a sure win for the hometown here is in the cards.
2) JF : James Hinchcliffe. Hinchclifffe’s on track performance in qualifying was not hindered after his frightening incident during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis when he qualified 2nd in 500 for the second time in three years.
3.) JF : Will Power. Power has run well at the Speedway in year’s past despite struggling a bit on the ovals. At Fontana last year, Power showed that he can drive on ovals without a problem and took his 2nd win in dominating fashion. He has put himself in a good position with qualifying on the outside of the front row and cannot be counted out.
4) JF : Helio Castroneves. The 3 time winner will be looking to join the 4 timers club this weekend. Castroneves has been fast for much of the month and has put himself in a good spot qualifying in 4th place. Two of his three wins have come from the 4th row, while the other win has come from the pole.
5) JF : Simon Pagenaud. The flying frog has adapted to ovals very quickly since joining IndyCar in 2012. One ability that Pagenaud has is knowing when to attack and make a move. With the newer formula producing more passing, being in the lead is not the most ideal spot to be until the very end. That being said, Pagenaud will bide his time until it is right and he will make his move when it counts.
6) JF : Marco Andretti. The long infamous Andretti Curse can come to an end if Marco plays his cards right. Marco led the most laps in 2012 and when he has finished the 500, he has finished well. The chances on Marco are higher this year just as he has progressed further as a driver. He has always been strong on ovals and should be one to watch on Sunday.
7) JF : Carlos Munoz. Ah yes, the Munoz line. To be more specific, it is the low, low line that Carlos Munoz worked to perfection in last season’s race. The Columbian rookie stunned everybody with his runner up finish in last year’s 500, and his performance at Fontana last year should not go unnoticed. Munoz is strong on ovals and has adapted well to the Speedway.
8) JF : Josef Newgarden. The Tennessean has had a good start to the 2014 season, although his results do not show for it. He had the lead at Long Beach after green flag pit stops until he was taken out by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Newgarden’s 500 last year was nothing to write home about but he qualified nearly great this year and his rookie year in 2012.
9) JF : JR Hildebrand. Hildebrand in an Indy only effort was impressive in his qualifying session made it two ECR cars in the Fast Nine. Hildebrand…
10) JF : Juan Pablo Montoya. Making his Indy return after a 14 year hiatus, Montoya struggled in initial qualifying on Saturday but was able to be the fastest man not in the Fast Nine with a lap that would have put him in second place. Montoya is always learning the new car and has been quick all month. A second Indy 500 win might me slightly out of reach for the CART/Formula 1 veteran, but a good run is in the works.
11) JF : Scott Dixon. Dixon has been rather quiet this month of May, but showed no signs of slowing down after a quick lap on Sunday that would have put him 3rd on the grid had he been in the Fast Nine. Dixon started deep in the field in 2012 and worked with Dario Franchitti to get to the front, so starting deep in the field is no damper on Dixon’s spirits.
12) JF : Kurt Busch. The NASCAR competitor has been surprisingly quick since he first took the wheel of an IndyCar this month. His accident during practice on Monday was a case of trying to save the car after it stepped out on him and there was not any room to do so. It will be interesting to see where Busch ends up on Sunday.
13) JF : Jack Hawksworth. Bryan Herta’s rookie prospect has been off to a good start in 2014 nearly dominating the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and was in the Fast Nine for much of the day on Saturday until bumped out late. The 2011 winning team from the Indy 500 has been good at the speedway minus last year. Can the rookie shock the field in at the Brickyard in 2014?
14) JF : Justin Wilson. Wilson has finished a career best 5th at the Speedway last year and has always been fascinating to watch come from behind on road courses as well as his brilliant come from behind win at Texas in 2012. Dale Coyne Racing has improved much over the last year and Wilson has gotten better on ovals.
15) TF : Mikhail Aleshin. Another Rookie for 2014, Aleshin has had a mixed debut season in Indycar so far, however the Russian is looking fairly strong on his debut for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the Indianapolis 500. In 2010 he beat Formula One sensation of 2014, Daniel Ricciardo to the Renault 3.5 title in Europe, Can Aleshin surprise at Indy, With teammate Simon Pagenaud ?
16) TF : Tony Kanaan. Our 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion is wearing new colours for this years race, with a move to the #10 Target Chip Ganassi entry in place of retired former champion Dario Franchitti. Alot has changed for the Ganassi organisation this season, A move from Honda to Chevrolet powerplants in addition expanding the team to five cars for the Indianapolis 500. The team has looked somewhat out of shape until Carb day yesterday when alongside teammate in the target cars Dixon, topped the timesheets. TK is my dark-horse for the race with his overtaking at the start of races becoming part of Indianapolis lore, Starting back in 16th, he’s got a good chance to come through.
17) TF : Sebastien Bourdais. The frenchman’s luck at Indy has never been fantastic, His success coming from Champcar during the painful split of the series, however now in his fourth attempt at Indy and his first with KV-SH Racing, I reckon it’s possible that the luck might eventually change for the Le Mans born racer.
18) TF : Oriol Servia. Running a partial campaign with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, I reckon Servia could certainly make the top 10 by the end of the race, his determination last year with the Panther :Dreyer & Reinbold racing team’s last hurrah for the season showed he still has plenty of pace to give, It’s going to be interesting.
19) TF : Ryan Hunter-Reay. Starting along way back in the field is 2012 Indycar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan missed out on day one, by giving the car one more shot to start in the top 9, The gamble didn’t work and he ended the day 11th. Another attempt to qualify on day two for positions 10-33 unfortunately didn’t go to plan either with RHR struggling for speed, I would be very surprised if Ryan didn’t come towards the front quickly tomorrow in race trim to meet with the rest of the Andretti Autosport team.
20) TF : Graham Rahal. Hiring Bill Pappas and gaining National Guard sponsorship both where positive for the team ahead of the season, However It’s been a tough month for RLL at the speedway and to be fair a relatively tough year. I really hope Graham and the team find a way to progress with one of racing’s most famed surnames. Best of luck in the race.
21) TF : Carlos Huertas. Another rookie for the season. Carlos spent two seasons in European junior formula with mixed results, turning to the USA this season, initially it looked like he was set for the Panther Racing organisation, when Panther left indycar, he was picked up by Dale Coyne Racing, It’s going to be a learning year for Carlos at IMS.
22) TF : Pippa Mann. Pippa goes pink for 2014! Pippa is supporting the Susan G. Komen organisation in this years race, returning with an extra entry for Dale Coyne Racing for a second consecutive year. Given that Pippa hasn’t been in the car since Fontana 2013, a strong qualifying and for a good cause, best of luck this month.
23) TF : Takuma Sato. The unlikely partnership of AJ Foyt and Taku continues for 2014, and as ever on the right day, its an incredible partnership. I hope Taku can show strength and come towards the front of the race fairly quickly with his aggressive driving style, The closing laps of the 2012 race was incredible. He’s certainly popular among the fans.
24) TF : Alex Tagliani. When Tagliani left BHA midway through the 2013 season, it seemed as if the popular veteran Canadians open wheel career was coming to an end with his attention turned briefly to sportscars. Been a stand in for Ganassi at the final round of the 2013 season at Fontana is the last time Tags entered an Indycar ahead of this month. It’s an interesting partnership between youth and experience been the teammate to Josef Newgarden at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. I wish Tags all the best in the race.
25) TF : Townsend Bell returns once again for a one off run at the Indianapolis 500. It almost seems a certain that every recent Indianapolis 500 should have an entry from the racer turned broadcaster for NBC Sports Networks coverage of the series. Townsend enters this years race with KV Racing technology.
26) TF : Charlie Kimball. A disappointing qualifying session by Kimball, Although the hope for Ganassi is that the race pace is there, it certainly was last year for Charlie starting back in row seven and coming through for a top 10. The challenge is bigger this year from row nine, however I wouldn’t rule him out in the race.
27) TF : Jacques Villeneuve. JV returns to Indycar for the first time since his victory in 1995. I understand the surprise on his starting position, however so much in the series has changed since then, It will be intriguing to see what JV can do tomorrow in terms of progress throughout the race. It’s tough to see the former F1 and CART champion starting this far down.
28) TF : James Davison. I’m impressed, I can hear people asking why ? he’s starting 28th. True, absolutely on paper it is a long way down, however James is running a highly limited programme, not been able to get out on track until Thursday, with qualifying on the Saturday and Sunday, to manage to qualify ahead of the final row is a strong attempt for the Indianapolis rookie. James is racing with KV Racing Technology.
29) TF : Martin Plowman. Plowey joins AJ Foyt Racing as a second entry for this month, A tough qualifying but a highly experienced driver could make for an interesting race.
30) TF : Ryan Briscoe. The former Team Penske driver has a tough race ahead, Two years ago, Ryan was on the pole at the Indianapolis 500, A move to ALMS followed by a return to Indycar racing with Panther Racing last year, and a second move to Ganassi’s fourth full season entry for this year has made for a tough season for Ryan so far,.We know he has the pace from his Penske days and his sportscar success, I hope that Ryan can come further up the grid as the race continues tomorrow.
31) TF : Sage Karam. Karam starts on the back row on his debut in the Indianapolis 500, The young american however has a fantastic career ahead of him even if it isn’t entirely apparent by this outing, he’s in a learning year at the speedway in an Indycar. He’s the reigning Indylights champion, had a great outing in the Rolex24@daytona with Ganassi’s sportscar team and personally I do believe that Karam is one of the future stars of Indycar. He just needs some time to get acquainted.
32) TF : Sebastian Saavedra. A move from Dragon Racing to KV Racing full season alongside the highly experienced Sebastien Bourdais has helped Saavadra. Setting pole for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the start of the month was a huge positive, sadly due to the startline incident, we didn’t get to see his race pace.
33) TF : Buddy Lazier. Starting in 33rd position is 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Lazier, returning for the second year for a single one off outing at the Indianapolis 500 with the Lazier Racing partners outfit, Buddy comes with more sponsorship this year and although starting last, showed some more promise in the carb day practice yesterday, finishing the day in 14th. Good luck.
So here we are, your field of 33 for tomorrow’s 98th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Josh Farmer & Tom Firth.