After looking at the potential fortunes of the top line teams going into this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, now it’s time to look at the fortunes of the relatively “smaller” teams, some of whom are punching well above their weight so far in 2014.
Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport:
#5 Dollar General Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport/Team Pelfrey Dallara DW12-Honda – Jacques Villeneuve
Shortly after the attention was dying down from the announcement of Kurt Busch competing in this year’s Indy 500 the fans were treated to another shock announcement as high flying Schmidt Peterson Hamilton motorsport announced 1995 Indy 500 winner and 1997 F1 World champion Jacques Villeneuve would make a return to the 500 for the 1st time since his iconic victory in 1995.
A lot has changed since then yet Villeneuve will be hoping to roll back the years and claim a fairytale 2nd 500 victory. Whilst the odds appear stacked against him with the time needed to adjust to the current Indycar racer and the smaller nature of the Schmidt team yet this team has been punching well above it’s weight so far in 2014, and with the experience Villeneuve possesses this car could spring a surprise on Sunday.Qualifying was tough with a 27th starting spot yet there is plenty of potential for Villeneuve to create bigger shocks on Sunday afternoon.
#7 SMP Bank Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport/SMP Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Mikhail Aleshin
A stuttering career in the Formula Renault World Series Aleshin was handed a lifeline in 2014 as he made the switch to Indycar racing with the promising Schmidt team. A tough opening few races have been the result so far as Aleshin gets adjusted to Indycar racing yet he has shown promising flashes so far with a 15th starting slot on the grid definitely one of these moments.
The rookie will be hoping the practice runs will put him in good stead with a top 10 finish a realistic target from this grid slot. His only knock will be lack of experience his has with open wheel racing on ovals as this will be his first ever oval race.
#77 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda – Simon Pagenaud
By far the most impressive driver of the 2014 Indycar series so far has been Simon Pagenaud who has vaulted his Schmidt entry to four top 5 finishes from 4 races, including a win at the previous round last week on the Indianapolis road course.
Pagenaud appears to be flying high and in the groove right now with this confidence carrying over to the 500 so far with a solid 5th qualifying spot putting him on row 2 for the race, marking him out as someone to watch in the race as he appears to be the biggest challenger to those from more lucrative teams on the grid. A definite contender for a first Indy 500 victory this weekend.
Dale Coyne Racing:
#18 Sonny’s Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Carlos Huertas
Carlos Huertas swapped a promising Formula Renault World Series ride in 2013 for a change of scenery in 2014 with a late deal with Dale Coyne racing being announced very close to the start of the 2014 season. The late announcement of the deal prevented a lot of running for Huertas to get acclimatized with the current Dallara DW12 Indycar. Therefore the 2014 season so far has been character building for Huertas as he tries to cope admirably with a situation where he is learning the car every race whilst trying to improve with a underfunded team.
This situation could have buried Huertas yet has so far coped very well with a best finish of 10th so far. Going into the Indy 500 Huertas faces a struggle as he prepares for his first ever oval race. There appears to be very little expectation around Huertas yet he performed superbly to secure 21st on the grid and will surely hope to carry on this upturn in form in the 500 .
#19 Boy Scout’s of America Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson has proved himself a very talented and experienced Indycar racer, with a reputation for pulling off unexpected giant-killing performances for underfunded teams. Therefore it’s no surprise he’s very comfortable with the underfunded Dale Coyne team and hopes to improve on his 3 podiums for the team in 2013.
So far in 2014 his best result is 6th and whilst Wilson is known for being better on road courses than ovals never discount his ability to spring a surprise in Indycar’s. A 14th grid spot for the 500 leaves him some work to do yet alongside Pagenaud expect Wilson to challenge the better funded teams with a top 6 result being a realistic goal for this giant killing team.
#63 Susan G. Komen Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Pippa Mann
After an impressive yet truncated 2013 season with Dale Coyne racing Brit Pippa Mann has secured a Indy 500 only deal so far with Dale Coyne racing thanks to support from the Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness Foundation. Fans will certainly always see Mann’s car as the tie up has resulted in a distinctive pink livery for car and driver.
Aside from that Mann has so far showed no race rustiness in her time off as she qualified an impressive 22nd as she hopes for an impressive run in the 500 with a top 10 result being a very realistic target for the team. Either way Mann will be hoping to impress in the 500 as she looks for further Indycar outings in 2014.
For anyone interested in finding out more about the Susan G. Komen Foundation or supporting this partnership with Pippa Mann please visit the link below.http://www.racewithpippa.com/
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara DW12-Honda:
#67 Klipsch Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden has quickly marked himself out as a rising star within the Indycar ranks with this being his 3rd season in the series. Things have been solid if unspectacular so far this year with two top 10 finishes so far meaning Newgarden will have to show his skills to improve his chances of a dream victory or top 5 finish come Sunday afternoon. He appeared to set this up almost perfectly with a nice 8th starting spot meaning he will be in the thick of the lead action for the 500 as he hopes to invigorate his 2014 season in style.
#68 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Alex Tagliani
After a difficult 2013 Indycar season which saw fan favourite Alex Tagliani give up his drive he returns in 2014 with this one-off Indy 500 entry with Sarah Fisher Hartman racing. The team has a competitive package and Tagliani runs well at Indy, therefore this entry should be one to look out for as an outside bet for a good result. A 24th starting slot was not ideal for Tagliani yet watch out for him as the day goes on he may well spring a surprise.
Ed Carpenter Racing:
#20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Ed Carpenter
This weekend’s Indianapolis 500 is the first race of the year for team owner Ed Carpenter as his unique deal with fellow driver Mike Conway see’s Ed doing the oval races in 2014 and Conway the road courses. It was likely assumed the long lay off period would hurt Carpenter come the 500 yet he struck back in emphatic style be clinching a second consecutive pole for the 500 with a stunning 231mph run, the fastest pole time since 2003. Carpenter is dynamite on ovals and expect him to in the lead pack all race long.
#21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – JR Hildebrand
JR Hildebrand is another driver hoping this one-off entry for the 500 will kick start new opportunities in Indycar after a bruising 2013 campaign which saw him leave the Panther racing team. Of the one-off entries for this race I would rate Hildebrand of having the biggest opportunity to grab a good result as the Ed Carpenter racing cars are always competitive on ovals and Hildebrand has showed a liking for this track despite the heartbreak of his rookie 500. Watch what happened to him here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tFV-85gyzQ
Hildebrand starts 9th this Sunday and for him a top 3 result is well within his reach with a breakthrough victory well within the realms of possibilities for this talented Californian.
Bryan Herta Autosport:
#98 Charter Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda – Jack Hawksworth
After a mixed season in Indy Lights for Jack Hawksworth in 2013 is was a slight surprise when he was first announced as the driver for Bryan Herta Autosport late on before the 2014 season began. Some questioned his readiness for Indycar’s, yet so far Hawksworth has proved everyone wrong by showing plenty of promise so far in 2014.
He’s marked himself out as a potential future talent within Indycar racing, showing this further with a strong 13th qualifying spot for the 500. Although he’s slightly inexperienced on ovals he will surely be looking for at the very least a top 10 finish.
KV Racing Technology:
#6 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Townsend Bell
Townsend Bell is very experienced in American open wheel racing and takes time out of his busy Tudor United Sportscar GT campaign to once again compete in the Indianapolis 500. He secured the #6 entry with KV racing and will be looking for a strong run this weekend . He starts 25th for the 500 yet he’s experienced enough to know the race is long and he will have plenty of opportunities to secure a decent result.
#11 HydroxyCut KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Sebastien Bourdais
Sebastian Bourdais appears to be settling into his new team, KV racing recently as he took his best result of 2014 so far with 7th in the last round on the road course at Indianapolis. A 17th starting spot for the 500 is not a brilliant return for the 4 time Champ Car champion yet there will be plenty of opportunities for him to nab a good result in the famous race.
#17 KV Racing Technology/AFS Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Sebastien Saavedra
Sebastien Saavedra has suffered a difficult start to his 2014 campaign with new team KV racing in conjunction with the Indy Lights team he drove for, AFS racing. The frustrating aspect for Saavedra will be the missed opportunities, most notably stalling from pole at the last round on the Indy road course. A 32nd starting slot for the 500 suggests his bad luck at Indy this month is continuing and he will be hoping his luck swings the other way in the 500 this Sunday.
#33 Always Evolving Racing KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – James Davison
This entry is one of perseverance as highly rated Australian James Davison showed initial promise in Indy Lights before running into funding issues which have prevented a step up into Indycar since his final year of Indy Lights in 2009. Whilst he’s raced regularly since then it’s been in a number of different cars and categories, therefore his will prove a steep learning curve to acclimatise to Indianapolis. He starts 28th which is a decent showing as he hopes to improve on that for the race.
#14 ABC Supply Co AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda – Takuma Sato
So far 2014 has been a difficult season for the experienced Japanese man Takuma Sato, with a best result of 7th so far. Whilst it’s been disappointing so far for Sato he can take comfort from his form at this point last year which saw him fighting for the lead of the championship going into the 500. He will be hoping for the reverse of last year where he season faltered from the 500 onwards. A 23rd grid slot leaves him plenty to do yet Sato has more than enough ability to get the job done if things go right for him.
#41 ABC Supply Co AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda – Martin Plowman
British driver Martin Plowman makes a return to Indycar’s after spending the last few years gaining success in LMP2 Sportscar racing. Plowman showed promise in Indy Lights and his few Indycar outings before budget issues steered him towards his Sportscar years. 29th on the grid is a respectable result for someone still re-adjusting to Indycar’s yet expect him to get better as the race goes on.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:
#15 National Guard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Graham Rahal
Things have been frustrating for Graham Rahal after moving to his father’s team for the 2013 season. Despite showing flashes of promise the results haven’t come for the talented American, something he’ll be looking to rectify on Indycar’s biggest stage. 20th on the grid is a solid result for Rahal and if things hold together look for him to nab a good result.
#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Oriol Servia
Despite seeming almost never ending budget issues Oriol Servia has managed to secure himself a multiple race deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing, concluding with this weekend’s Indy 500. Whilst he always seems to find himself with the lower funded teams he always manages to drag some good results from the car, always leaving the paddock questioning what he could do in a top line team. 18th on the grid is a good result and he’ll be gunning for a good result to keep him racing in 2014.
Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing:
#22 Comfort Revolution Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing/Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Sage Karam
After an impressive rookie campaign in 2013 which saw Sage Karam claim the Indy Lights title at his first attempt, it was no surprise that he was quickly snapped up to the Chip Ganassi racing development programme. Sadly for him the only drives the team could give him so far have been a few outings with the teams Daytona Prototype in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. This combined effort from Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom racing and Ganassi is a competitive package and Karam will be hoping to finish a lot higher than his current 31st on the grid.
Lazier Partners Racing:
#91 Advanced Auto Parts Lazier Partners Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Buddy Lazier
Buddy Lazier always managed to pull together a one-off deal for the Indy 500 and this year is no exception as he put together his own package. The winner of the 1996 Indy 500 he always seems to get the best he can out of the package at Indy, although the underfunded nature of the team limited Lazier to the 33rd and final grid slot this year. If things go right for him on race day expect him to gain a top 12 finish or maybe better depending on the attrition rate of the 2014 Indianapolis 500.
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