I am a huge IndyCar fan and have been amazed at the sport since I was 8 years old after witnessing The Greatest Spectacle in Racing for the first time. Jacques Villeneuve won that edition of the 500 and it has been in my blood ever since. It truly is one of the greatest events you can attend in sports. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in racing, you will be entertained by just about everything involved with the show. This year is special because it is the 100th running of the race and really, it might be the most wide open field of any year ever. So many tremendous drivers and teams. There might be 30 out of the 33 drivers who have a realistic chance to take home the Borg Warner trophy.
Sunday, May 29
Noon ET on ABC
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 200 laps, 500 miles.
Pole day finished up last weekend and was one of the best stories imaginable. James Hinchcliffe, a Canadian born driver with an extremely outgoing and likable personality, took the top spot as the very last driver to run. He edged out Tennessee native, Josef Newgarden by just hundredths of a second over the 4 lap run. What makes this so special is what happened exactly a year ago. Hinch was practicing after qualifications when something broke on the front of his car sending him straight into the Turn 3 wall at 230+mph. A part of his suspension pierced his bullet proof carbon fiber tub and impaled him. Literally went through his car, through his leg, through his pelvis area, and out the other side.
He sat in his car bleeding out while rescue crews worked to get him freed which was obviously an issue. They had to pull him off the metal piece which only made the bleeding worse. After being rushed to the hospital, he went through many blood transfusions and surgeries. There really is no explanation for how close he was to death. Doctors did not believe he would survive but after a intense rehab effort, he was strapped in his car for a test session last fall. The guy is seriously crazy.
Now here is is a year later about to lead the field to the green flag on Sunday. Incredible story.
Here is a run down of the entire starting grid…
Hinchcliffe is joined by a duo of Americans in Josef Newgarden with Ed Carpenter Racing and 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. RHR knows how to get around IMS and his win in 2014 was about as dramatic as it gets. Definitely a favorite for Andretti Autosport. Here is the finish for Hunter-Reay in 2014…
Two Andretti team guys in Townsend Bell and Carlos Munoz in Row 2. Andretti came to play after their Honda powered team hasn’t done much of anything this year so far. Good to see. Will Power from Team Penske is always tough and came close last year with a 2nd place finish. Bell is a one off that comes to Indy every year and always has speed as well as a crazy car livery.
Crazy Russian Mikhail Aleshin leads Row 3 alongside two Team Penske drivers. Points leader and winner of the last three IndyCar races, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud is bringing the traditional Menards livery back to the Brickyard. Bright is an understatement with his car color. 3-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves is on the outside looking to join the 4-time winners club. Hopefully ABC doesn’t ruin the moment by showing his girlfriend look confused for the last 15 laps like they did in 2014.
Interesting group here with veteran Spaniard Oriol Servia for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Formula 1 experienced American, Alexander Rossi from Andretti Autosport, and AJ Foyt driver, Takuma Sato from Japan. You have a steady, smart Servia, a rookie in Rossi, and a wild card risk taker in Sato. Sato was in position to win in 2012 before making a dive bomb move in Turn 1, spun, and smashed the wall.
Row 5 is as good as it gets. Scott Dixon from Chip Ganassi Racing is probably the best overall driver in the field. Multiple championships and an Indy win in 2008. He is known as the Ice Man for a reason. So good. Marco Andretti had the race won as a teenager in 2006 before Sam Hornish overtook him at the yard of bricks. He wants this race so bad for himself, his team, and his family name. I would love to see him win. Would be an incredible story. But don’t let those two outshine JR Hildebrand on the outside. This guy was literally ONE corner away from winning in 2011 as a rookie when this happened….
I mean are you kidding? He almost won with a destroyed car. How much do you think he wants to make it happen. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if the winner came from this row.
Just incredible how many good drivers are mid pack in this field. Chip Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball who finished 3rd last year, 2-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya who won last year, and fan favorite and 2013 winner Tony Kanaan. IN ROW 6! These guys know how to get to the front. Tony might get there in one lap as he is known to do. Great talent in this row.
Row 7 features KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, former pole sitter and definite favorite, Ed Carpenter, and young but extremely solid Gabby Chaves. Bourdais has won 34 races in his career and Ed Carpenter lives at the front of the field for Indy. As he should considering his family owns the famous track.
The young guys make up Row 8. Chip Ganassi’s Max Chilton, fearless Nazareth, Pennsylvania native, Sage Karam, and Indiana boy, Conor Daly. Karam and Daly are big fan favorites and are stars in the making. Karam is known for his risky and sometimes dangerous moves and Daly was set to make his Indy debut last year before blowing an engine.
Fun Fact: Former West Virginia and current Indianapolis Colt kicker, Pat McAfee is a sponsor for Daly’s entry. For all our WVU pals, this would be a solid guy to root for.
The only woman in the field heads up Row 9. Veteran Pippa Mann from England is a very solid driver with a good car underneath her. Might not contend at the front but usually finishes very well in the 500. Graham Rahal is WAY better than his starting position back here. No chance he stays back in the back for long. He is going to the front or crashing while trying. If you are looking to place bets, you’d be wise to put some money on the 15 Steak and Shake Honda. Rookie Australian, Matt Brabham is a third generation Indy 500 starter. Not much expected out of him on race day but a good finish wouldn’t surprise many people. Also, look up his girlfriend. You’re welcome.
Row 10 features two rookies and a dirt track specialist. Bryan Clauson is a dirt track legend already and only in his mid 20s. He is currently trying to do 200 races in 2016. Spencer Pigot has a great team behind him so a top 15 finish is very attainable. Stefan Wilson comes to Indy in tribute to his brother, Justin, who lost his life at Pocono last year. Would be a great story to see him finish
The last row has two entries from AJ Foyt Racing with Jack Hawksworth and 2011 pole sitter Alex Tagliani. Tagliani crashed in qualifying which explains his 33rd starting spot and Hawksworth is extremely talented but having trouble getting results this year. Wouldn’t surprise anyone to see these drivers move up through the field. 1996 winner Buddy Lazier joins the Foyt guys. Buddy and his partners have put together their best effort in years for the 100th running. Buddy always stays safe and if his car remains reliable, he will collect a solid result.
There you have it. A LOADED grid of the best drivers in the world. Here are the picks…
Winner: Marco Andretti wants it. He always races smart around Indy and will have a rocket ship underneath him. He will fight off the Penske armada and drink the milk.
Dark Horse: Not much of a dark horse, but starting so far back in the field, I guarantee Graham Rahal will get to the front quick. Look for him to be around with 20 laps to go. Anything can and will happen from there. Would make for a great show to have a Graham and Marco shootout at the end.
Credit to IMS.com for the grid artwork