The 101st Indianapolis 500 should prove to be one for the ages, with its reputation as a landmark race only reinforced this year.
It’s not often the motorsport world is collectively left in shock by a piece of news, but that’s exactly what happened this week. Formula One legend Fernando Alonso announced he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix to instead contest the Indianapolis 500. Both races are prestige events in the world of motorsport, and this exciting news shows Alonso is in touch with the history of this sport.
One of the key reasons Alonso gave for wanting to do the race is so he can attempt to win the triple crown of motorsport. He has already won the Monaco GP twice, in 2006 and 2007, and has already made his intention to try to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future widely known, therefore the Indianapolis 500 was the only race left to win.
It appears that the initial idea for contesting the race came as a light hearted joke from McLaren executive director Zak Brown about doing Indy together. It appears from here the idea settled and began to grow in the mind of Alonso, before crunch talks at last weekends Chinese Grand Prix solidified the idea.
Within the Indycar series there appears to have been a lot of support for the idea, with Stefan Wilson parking his own Indy 500 plans to accommodate Alonso, along with huge support from Indycar, Honda and the Andretti Autosport team that will run Alonso on behalf of McLaren. A weird coincidence is that Andretti Autosport team principal Michael Andretti drove for McLaren during the 1993 season.
The reason why this news was so shocking to many motorsport fans is because of the speciality of modern drivers. In the modern age drivers are usually regimented in one series, especially at the top levels of racing. Whilst it’s not uncommon for drivers to do on-off races like this in other series, that is largely true in Sportscar or American racing rather than F1.
Alonso taking part in this years Indy 500 will make him the first driver to compete in the race and F1 in the same season since Brit cult hero Nigel Mansell halted his Indycar campaign for a late part-season at Williams in 1994. Whilst German driver Nico Hulkenberg surprised the racing world by first confirming and then winning the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche, this did not generate as much headlines as Alonso.
Whilst Indycar has risen in popularity and prestige since the American open wheel reunification in 2008, the series is still no where near its previous popularity of the early 1990’s when Mansell was racing in the series. A lot of shock will have likely been the fact that a lot of people would not have thought Alonso would want to compete in the race. He has not mentioned his dreams of winning the triple crown a lot and no body would have predicted he would miss the Monaco GP to compete in the race.
A big reason why a lot of F1 drivers in the modern era do not compete in other races is because their teams are very regimented in what they allow them to do. Teams worry about another disaster situation such as what happened to Robert Kubica in 2011, where a big rally crash badly injured his hand and effectively forced a early retirement from F1. Many would have thought McLaren would have prevented Alonso from skipping the Monaco race for Indianapolis, but perhaps this is an attempt to appease a man unhappy with the current performance of his McLaren-Honda package.
This news is very exciting for motorsport fans because its a chance to see someone many people call the benchmark driver in F1 compete against the best American open wheel racers. The news will also remind many fans of a bygone era in F1. From the beginning of F1 in 1950 right up until the early 1990’s drivers would routinely add races such as the Le Mans 24 Hours to their F1 schedule.
It was not uncommon for drivers to compete in several different types of car throughout the season, and this diversification with F1 drivers is what fans loved to see. This is why the news is so exciting, as for the first time in a long while we will get to see a F1 world champion competing with the heroes from another series.
All fans of motorsport are winners with this latest news, with the announcement undoubtedly raising the profile of both Indycar and the Indianapolis 500 internationally. Hopefully the buzz surrounding this announcement and his performance in the race will convince some more F1 drivers to branch out and try the big events such as the Indy 500 or the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future. One thing is for certain however, as a fan I cannot wait to see how Alonso fares next month.
Any thoughts on this article? Please feel free to give your opinion in the comments section below and a huge thank you for reading. Follow me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.
Part three is my final roundup previewing the upcoming Indianapolis 500, one of the centre piece events in motorsport. Feel free to visit my other preview pages on my blog, with this entry previewing the final thirteen entries on the grid. The race will undoubtedly provide plenty of action and drama throughout the 500 miles of racing, so let’s take a look at the final batch of contenders.
#25 KVSH Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Stefan Wilson
The #25 entry is a very special one, as it’s being run in honour of the popular Brit Justin Wilson, who was tragically killed last August by debris at Pocono. This is why his brother Stefan is making his Indy 500 debut this year, with the KVSH racing team.
Whilst Stefan is a rookie and his on track performance is of course important, unlike any other car on the grid this one has another purpose. To raise money for charities linked with Justin. Whilst it’s fitting that it’s his brother who keeps the Wilson name on the Indycar grid this year, it will be tough to produce any headlines on track.
He has only competed in one other Indycar race, making this his first Indy 500 and first Indycar event since 2013. He’s qualified 30th and will find it tough to make up places, despite a strong KVSH team behind him. To claim a top twenty spot would be a result for Stefan, although the wider goal of money raised will be irrespective from his on track performance.
#26 United Fire Data Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Carlos Munoz
Carlos Munoz is a young Colombian who is making a name for himself in Indycar as a very solid young driver. He started the season off well with eighth, but since then a string of finishes outside the top ten have hampered his progress.
Andretti Autosport and Honda appear to be hooked up here in Indianapolis, with three of the Andretti entries in the top five of qualifying. Munoz was the third of the entries in fifth, a great starting position for the race. Although he will have to race hard to remain in the top five, Munoz has put himself in a perfect position to claim a great result this Sunday.
#27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Marco Andretti
The most famous name in the race is likely to be considered Marco Andretti. The latest in the Andretti has shared his father and grandfather’s bad luck at the Brickyard. While similarly talented names have multiple wins, Marco has yet to win the 500.
Whilst he seemingly always manages to run well at Indianapolis, he has struggled to convert this into a good result here. So far it’s been a tough start to the season for him, with no top ten finishes and a 14th qualifying spot for the 500. Whilst a big result at the 500 can easily turn a season around, on current form and considering his bad luck here simply a top ten finish would be an improvement for Marco Andretti.
#28 DHL Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter Reay has been a mainstay both at Andretti Autosport and at the front of the grid in Indycar for the past five years. He has proven his talent with both the Indycar title in 2012 and Indy 500 victory in 2014.
This year has plateaued slightly in the last few rounds, something Hunter-Reay will want to rectify in the biggest race of the year. He’s qualified on the outside of the front row in third, showing just how well he can run around here.
With his Andretti team seemingly on top of the circuit, Hunter-Reay will surely go into the race as one of the select few of serious contenders. Whilst a good haul of points would be good for Hunter-Reay, based on his practice speed surely anything other than a win will be met with a tinge of disappointment.
#29 Robert Graham Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Townsend Bell
American sportscar and open wheel racer Townsend Bell returns for another crack at the Indy 500, after switching his full season focus to sportscars several years ago. Bell always seems to perform well at Indianapolis, and this year a one-off deal with Andretti Autosport it a great fit for him.
With little running before the event Bell has shown how strong the Andretti team is by placing his car fourth on the grid in qualifying. For a one-off entry, this is a remarkable result and should it be repeated in the race would surely be one of the main talking points. Bell is capable of causing an upset and from fourth on the grid anything is possible for the experienced American.
#35 Alfe A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Alex Tagliani
Alex Tagliani is a mainstay of Indycar and the Indy 500, returning with another one-off entry with the A.J Foyt Enterprises team. The experienced Canadian is capable of a good result here, despite spending the majority of the season racing GT’s in Europe.
Whilst it’s always difficult to jump into the series for one race, especially the blue riband event, but that’s not been an issue for Tagliani in the past. This year things have been difficult however, with a crash in his qualifying run relegating Tagliani to the back of the grid, having not completed a run.
His hopes for the 500 are unknown, but if he’s at this best then a top ten result is still attainable for Tagliani. With the pressure of running a full season off, he can charge from the back without thinking about the championship.
#41 ABC Supply Co A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Jack Hawksworth
For Brit Jack Hawksworth this is his second season with the A.J Foyt team, and so far it’s been a tough season for him. He has yet to record a top ten finish in the first five races, and things have not improved so far at Indy.
He qualified on the final row in 31st position, and in the race this is only going to make getting to the front that bit harder for him. He can still salvage a result in such a long race, but he has not made things easy for himself. The Honda engine appears to be running well here, therefore it will be up to Hawksworth and his talent to drag the car into the top ten, of course dependent on if he can keep out of trouble as he rises through the field.
#42 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Charlie Kimball
Charlie Kimball is one of those drivers who appears to be underrated amongst the Indycar community, and he’s proved himself whilst at Chip Ganassi racing for the past few years. This year has been mixed for Kimball, with a top five in the last round showing what he can do when he get’s the opportunity.
It appears here at Indianapolis that the Chip Ganassi team are struggling slightly for pace, with none of their four cars in the top twelve. For a team that won the title last year this is a tough pill to take, and something they will no doubt be working on flat out until the race start on Sunday afternoon. If they can improve the car during the race Kimball has a chance of a top ten result, if not he may struggle to move through the field from his 16th starting spot.
#61 Pirtek Team Murray Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Matthew Brabham
The world famous Brabham name returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Matthew the third generation of Brabham to race in the 500. It’s an ambitious effort from the rookie, as he is being run by Team Murray, who are also making their step up to Indycar in the biggest race of the year.
The team is receiving support from KVSH racing, and this will prove invaluable to their preparations for the race. So far Brabham has settled in well, qualifying a respectable 26th on the grid for his debut race. For his first ever Indycar race simply finishing it would be a good result for Brabham, although with so many unknowns surrounding the team anything is possible for them.
#63 Susan G. Komen Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Pippa Mann
British racer Pippa Mann has once again found a one-off entry for the Indy 500, with support from Susan G. Komen and Dale Coyne Racing. She has shown pace in previous Indy Lights and Indycar races, and this is something she will want to show once again this Sunday.
So far it’s been a under the radar month, as she’s qualified 25th for the race. This is a respectable effort considering she has had little time to get back up to speed in these cars. For one-off entries it’s always difficult to achieve a good result, although for Pippa if things run smoothly she can easily score a top seven result in the 500, and potentially earning the opportunity to run further races later in the year.
#77 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda: Oriol Servia
Oriol Servia has seemingly emerged as a specialist in the one-off Indianapolis 500 entry. He is a proven talent at this level and his results surely warrant a full season ride in the series, despite his lack of funds.
This year he has teamed up with Schmidt Peterson motorsports, as he looks to have a good result in the 500, which could help him earn more races in the series in the future. After running in the season opener, he has acquitted himself with the very different oval aero kit on these spec Dallara chassis, as he qualified a very good tenth on the grid. This puts him in a great position to maintain his place in the top ten come the finish, which would surely be considered a good result by the team considering his entry is a one-off.
#88 Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Bryan Clauson
After several attempts at the Indy 500, American sprint and midget car racer Bryan Clauson is back once again this year with the one car Jonathan Byrd racing team. His two previous attempts at the 500 have not ended well, so this year Clauson will be hoping to improve upon his current best result of 30th in 2012.
In qualifying Clauson produced a good result to secure 28th on the grid. In the race he will have plenty of time to improve on 28th, although with a one car team their data is limited, therefore making it difficult to make in race adjustments to the changing track conditions. For Clauson the Indy 500 is part of a plan to take part in 200 races this year, and this is definitely the most high profile. A good result would be a top 15 result, although this may be just out of reach for the team.
NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Alex Rossi
American Alex Rossi returns to the American racing scene this year, for the first time since his Formula BMW Americas title victory in 2008. After reaching F1 at the tail end of last season, Rossi has chose to move into the Indycar series this year.
The promise he showed in F1 has translated into Indycar so far, as he currently is the highest placed rookie in the standings after the first five races. After spending the majority of his career racing in Europe, his adjustment to ovals will prove crucial to how he fares in the centre piece Indy 500.
Taking advantage of a strong Andretti Autosport car he’s qualified a very respectable 11th for the 500, and from here he could easily push on and score a top five or top eight finish come the end. Watch out for Rossi as one of the surprises of the race.
That not only wraps up part three, but is the finale for my preview of this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. The race will be one not to miss, and anyone can watch it in the UK on BT Sport I believe. I would like to thank Motorsport.com again for their incredible quality photos which you see in this article, I really urge everyone to visit their site for the latest in motorsport news.
I would also like to thank you for reading these previews, and any comments at all would be greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.
This is part two of my preview for this Sunday’s blue riband Indianapolis 500, one of the three triple crown races which carry the most prestige in motorsport. If you missed the first part of my preview, you can view it here. Part 1 preview . For now let’s move onto the second part of my preview, enjoy.
#12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Will Power
Will Power has proved himself one of the fastest and most consistent drivers in Indycar over the past five years. The Australian’s season has been up and down so far, with podiums teamed with missing the first race because of a practice crash, which caused concussion.
He is now back to his best and starts sixth for the 500. With other rivals further down the field, Power is in a great position to fight for the victory all through the race. He has never won in the Indy 500, but with his skills and great pit work from Team Penske he may well find his 2016 turns around with a momentous victory in the centre piece 500. A win or even a top five finish would also really help kick start his potential title challenge after missing the first round.
#14 ABC Supply Co A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Takuma Sato
Takuma Sato has become a staple of the legendary A.J Foyt’s team, and this familiarity may breed a good result for the popular Japanese racer. Despite making a name for himself in F1, Sato has adjusted well to oval racing.
He came very close to winning the 2012 Indy 500, and he may become a surprise contender once again come race day. So far his season has been uneventful, with two top six results his best after five rounds. He qualified twelfth for the 500, well ahead of his team mate. It seems Sato is most likely to lead the A.J Foyt team, and he can easily achieve a top ten or even top five result. Sato can be considered in the second group of contenders, ready to capitalize on any mistakes to ensure a good result.
#15 Steak & Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal surprised everyone in Indycar with his stellar 2015 season. Both Rahal and his team were underrated, and they proved everyone wrong with a title challenge which came very close to succeeding.
This year it seems this combination was initially struggling to find it’s feet, although with two podiums in the past two races Rahal is seemingly hitting the right form going into the 500. It appears the team have been usurped as one of the top running Honda teams, with Rahal really struggling in qualifying. He will start from 26th and this leaves him a lot of work to do in the race. It also means he’s more likely to be caught up in accidents which could prematurely end his day.
If Rahal can keep his nose clean expect him to rise up the field throughout the race, with a top five result surely a huge result for Rahal considering his lack of qualifying pace. Clearly the team have some work to do with the car, with time running out before the race.
#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara DW12-Honda: Spencer Pigot
Rahal Letterman Lanigan have taken on reigning Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot for a partial campaign this year, as he makes his debut in the Indy 500. So far Pigot has done his best to adjust to Indycar, with only two races experience going into the 500.
With a rookie running a partial schedule it’s very difficult to come in and do well from the start, with so much to learn and not enough track time to do it. So far Pigot has stayed under the radar and got on with his programme, which is the perfect thing for a rookie to do. He starts 29th on the grid for the race, but he’s a talented young racer so will make up places. Finishing the race with a top 10 or 15 finish would be a good result for Pigot, as he continues to gain experience in Indycar.
#18 Shirts for America Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Conor Daly
Conor Daly is another rookie looking to gain experience in Indycar, after a few years trying to climb the European single seater racing ladder. In his first full season Daly is another racer who is flying under the radar, although a sixth in the most recent round suggests Daly is improving with every race. The fact he is currently the second best rookie shows also his impressive switch to Indycar.
He struggled slightly in qualifying, as he starts 24th for the 500. In the race gaining as much track time as possible will be important to Daly, with a top 15 finish surely a good result for Daly in his first Indy 500, against such a high quality field also. Don’t be at all surprised if Daly finishes as the best rookie in the race.
#19 Boy Scout’s of America Dale Coyne Racing DallaraDW12-Honda: Gabby Chaves
Colombian Gabby Chaves is looking to maintain his Indycar career after an impressive rookie season last year. The 2014 Indy Lights champion showed plenty of pace and won the rookie of the year honour, but despite this he has not found a full season ride this year.
After missing the opening rounds he’s been handed this lifeline by the Dale Coyne racing team, something he will surely want to turn into a good result. Coming into the biggest Indycar race of the year with a small team, having missed races is always a very difficult task.
He starts 21st in the race and will be looking to turn this into a top ten finish. A big result could put him in the shop window for next year, but this will be very tough for Chaves. Should he pull it off he will surely be deserving of a full time Indycar drive next year.
#20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter returns once again for another crack at the 500 with his own team, as he aims to finally turn the promise he’s shown into a good result. Carpenter always runs well on ovals, and this year should be no different.
He’s only competed in one race so far this year, and this appeared to show as he qualified 20th for the 500. Carpenter always manages to be a thorn in the side of the much bigger teams, and watch for him to rise up the field into victory contention by the end of the race. A top five finish would be a good result for this small team, and would finally ensure a reward for Carpenter after years of near misses.
#21 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden has emerged as one of the best young racers in Indycar, having already secured a podium this year for the relatively small Ed Carpenter Racing team. The team have always performed well on ovals, especially Indianapolis. This is usually shown by team owner Ed Carpenter, but this year it appears Newgarden has usurped him for this honour.
After a good start to the season Newgarden has carried this on by qualifying a very close second for this Sunday’s race, missing out on pole by only 0.060mph. Both car and driver are clearly performing well, and barring any dramas watch out for him as one of the outside contenders for victory. A win in the Indy 500 would be a surprise by well deserved honour for this young American.
#22 Menard’s Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Simon Pagenaud
After a difficult first season with Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud is now taking Indycar by storm in his second year with the team. He has emerged as the dominant driver this year with three wins for five races, and will be aiming to make it four from six this Sunday.
He has never been primarily known for his oval prowess, but with a solid eighth qualifying spot showing his car has pace here. Watch out for Pagenaud to rise to the front, with form from this season suggesting he is the man to beat going into the biggest race of the year.
#24 Gas Monkey Garage Energy Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Sage Karam
Sage Karam is a young driver looking to rebuild his reputation, after a difficult 2015 season. The young American clearly has pace, having won the Indy Lights title as a rookie in 2013. Since then he’s shown flashes of pace in Indycar, but has garnered a reputation as a reckless and sometimes dangerous driver.
Despite having previous Chip Ganassi Racing support, this year he’s entering the 500 in a one off Dreyer & Reinbold entry. For a young driver in a one car, one off entry this is a very hard situation to produce a good result. He qualified 23rd and therefore will have the opportunity to rise through the field if he and the car are running well. He performs well on ovals so may be an outside bet for a top ten maybe top twelve finish, but for this entry gaining attention and support for further outings this year is the primary goal.
That wraps up the second part of my preview for this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. I would like to say a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for the high quality photos which adorn this article, everyone should check out their website for the latest motorsport news. I would also like to thank you for reading this article, with any comments being greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.
The last weekend of May is always a special weekend for motorsport fans. The most prestigious grand prix on the calendar takes place, the Monaco Grand Prix. Famous the world over it always provides excitement and celebrities flock to watch the on track action. Fans from across the world will be tuning in this weekend, eagerly anticipating the next stage of the Nico Rosberg vs Lewis Hamilton battle.
After the champagne has been sprayed on Sunday, many motorsport fans will be switching their attentions stateside, as another of the motorsport triple crown takes place only hours after the action in Monte Carlo. The 100th Indianapolis 500 is something any self respecting motorsport fan will not want to miss, with furious high speed on track action guaranteed.
The Indycar series has no where near the profile of F1, but in America the Indy 500 is still a major sporting event and will garner a further international audience. With speeds topping 225mph the action could not be more different to that in Monte Carlo. Both are equally considered races that form the triple crown of motorsport, the other being the Le Mans 24 Hours in several weeks time. Let’s take a look at the contenders in this years Indy 500.
#2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Juan Pablo Montoya
The reigning champion will want to add a third Indy 500 victory resume, and with Penske he has the perfect opportunity to achieve this. The most high profile name in the series has shown himself to be the front runner in the series for the past season and a half, despite narrowly missing out on the title at the final round last year.
At 40 years old Montoya has lost none of his speed or hunger, which explains why he is such a formidable competitor for his rivals. Despite a good start to the season, Montoya suffered from a plastic bag getting stuck in his radiator on his qualifying run. After this bizarre problem ruined his qualifying he only managed to qualify 17th.
The good thing for Montoya is that the race is 500 miles long, giving him plenty of time to move up the field and back into leading contention. With the knous of Team Penske behind him he will have a great chance to win a second consecutive and third overall Indy 500, ensuring he will be added to the list of Indycar greats. Despite qualifying Montoya is still arguably the favourite.
#3 Pennzoil Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Helio Castroneves
The experienced Brazilian prepares for his 16th Indy 500, and is every bit as much a contender for victory as in his previous fifteen. The 41 year old knows the track arguably better than anyone else on the grid, and is in good form going into this Sunday centre piece race.
With two podiums in the first five races he sits third in the points standings, and a win here from ninth on the grid would really give his title challenge serious momentum. Castroneves is another member of the four car Team Penske fleet, something that only enhances his bid for victory. He is a three winner of this event, although his last victory in the 500 came in 2009.
With Castroneves in good form and the might of Team Penske behind him a fourth victory is very much possible for him. His competition will likely come from his team mates and rivals at Chip Ganassi and Andretti Autosport, but Castroneves could overcome them all if things fall his way on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if Castroneves is drinking the milk in winners circle come Sunday evening.
#4 Lazier Burns Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Buddy Lazier
Buddy Lazier returns this year with his annual effort with his family run Lazier Burns racing team. Whilst this is a small one car team with limited resources compared to the bigger teams, this team could spring a surprise come race day.
The team struggled in qualifying with Lazier set to start 32nd, with a speed over 1mph down on anyone else. Whilst it doesn’t seem much, at Indianapolis this is a large difference. It also cannot be discounted the fact Lazier is one of six former winners in this race.
Lazier was one of the original drivers in the Indycar series, winning the 1996 Indy 500 and 2000 Indycar series title. For the past ten years Lazier has focused on one-off entries in the Indy 500, and this will surely hamper him going into the race. Without the experience of the regular series drivers, this will only hamper his preparations for the race. For Lazier a top ten or top fifteen result will be a good effort for this small one car team.
#5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara DW12-Honda: James Hinchcliffe
Canadian James Hinchcliffe provided a great pre-race story by claiming pole position, only a year after a huge accident here ended his season prematurely. Hinchcliffe has lost none of his speed and overcame the traditional big teams with his Schmidt Peterson motorsport entry.
Sitting on pole position puts Hinchcliffe in the best possible position to secure a remarkable victory come Sunday. He definitely has the talent to do it and is coming into the race after scoring his first podium of the season in the Indianapolis road course race only a few weeks ago.
To secure a Canadian victory in America’s premier motor race Hinchcliffe will have to put in a great drive, alongside fast pit work by his team. Both team and driver have the potential to win, they just need to execute under pressure, which is a lot easier said then done.
#6 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: JR Hildebrand
JR Hildebrand returns yet again to Indianapolis with a one-off entry with Ed Carpenter racing, after racing with CFH Racing last year. Both Hildebrand and Carpenter perform well on ovals and the team have shown the potential to score a great result in the 500.
Whilst he’s likely known for his last corner crash in his debut Indy 500 five years ago, the fact he was a few hundred meters away from winning his debut 500 shows how well he can run here.
Despite being inexperienced compared to his full season rivals, Hildebrand has two top ten finishes from the past two years. This is a huge achievement for a one-off entry with a smaller team. He lines up fifteenth on the grid, but during the race Hildebrand could very well improve from a top ten to top five finish.
#7 DOOM Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda: Mikhail Aleshin
Mikhail Aleshin has returned to Indycar this year, after switching to sportscar racing last year with SMP Racing. The talented Russian’s season has been solid so far, with a top five finish in the opening round showing his potential once again.
Whilst he’s a European convert Indycar racing, qualifying seventh for the 500 shows Aleshin can become a good oval racer. The Schmidt Peterson team have produced good cars for Aleshin and team mate James Hinchcliffe, with both capable of shocking the major teams with a podium or victory this Sunday.
Whilst Aleshin does not have a wealth of experience in Indycar, he has enough to produce a great result in the 500 with his talent. Watch out for Aleshin as an outside bet for a top five, although even a top ten would be a good result for the Russian and his team.
#8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Max Chilton
Max Chilton prepares for his debut Indy 500, as he still adjusts to the Indycar series and it’s ovals in his rookie season. Despite some limited experience in the Indy Lights series last year, the former F1 racer is doing well adjusting to the series.
With his F1 experience a lot of people may expect him to immediately come in and be competitive, but that’s not realistic. Whilst his results so far have not been spectacular, he is improving with every race and the Indy 500 will only accelerate this.
He’s qualified a respectable 22nd on the grid, and he will likely improve as the race goes on. With the collective might of Chip Ganassi Racing supporting him, he could not be in a better place to become a very good Indycar driver with the likes of Dario Franchitti helping him. For Chilton a top fifteen finish would be a very good result for him, although simply finishing the race will only further his experience with the car and ovals in general.
#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Scott Dixon
The mild mannered Kiwi Scott Dixon arguably rivals Juan Pablo Montoya as the current series benchmark, with Dixon being the reigning series champion only enhancing this viewpoint.
He won on the series only oval round so far in Phoenix, and sits pretty in second as he looks to win back to back titles. He’s a four time champion and the winningest driver in the field, although he has only managed one Indy 500 win in 2008.
He starts out of position in thirteenth, but expect him to quickly rise through the field like the driver his livery emulates, legend Alex Zanardi. Discount Dixon at your peril, as he always manages to produce good results from nowhere, and this Sunday may be the latest example of this.
#10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Tony Kanaan
Another former winner amongst the Ganassi stable of entries is Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who has so far had an average start to his season. He was always the hard luck story before he won the 2013 Indy 500, with his old luck returning since.
With two successive 26th finishes in 2014 and 2015, it will be hard for Kanaan to do any worse this year. The 41 year old qualified eighteenth this year, and will surely move up the grid once the green flag is dropped.
Whilst he’s always suffered from bad luck at this circuit, he always runs well here and teamed with Ganassi he has the perfect package to win or even finish in the top five. Either would be a great result for Kanaan and would really kick start his season.
#11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Sebastien Bourdais
Sebastien Bourdais is well versed in the American Indycar scene, having made a name for himself stateside over the past decade. The Frenchman’s best finish in the Indy 500 is seventh in 2014, although he has plenty of Champ Car titles and wins to cement his reputation as a very quick Indycar driver.
It’s been a tough start to the year for Bourdais and his KVSH team, with a best finish so far of eighth in the opening five rounds. Qualifying for the 500 didn’t change his luck, as he posted the nineteenth fastest average speed.
Despite a bad start to the season Bourdais is the kind of driver you can never discount, as he could spring a surprise and produce a great result from nowhere. He will need his KVSH team to produce slick pitstops if he wants a good result, but certainly don’t discount the experienced Frenchman.
That wraps up part one of my Indy 500 preview. I would urge everyone to visit Motorsport.com for the latest news and high quality photos, some of which have been used in this article. Part 2 will be coming in the next few days and finally, thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.
This week has already seen some interesting rumours develop relating to potential driver moves concerning the Indycar series. The American open wheel championship has become increasingly popular with drivers over the past few years, with plenty of European drivers now turning their back on the exorbitant costs needed to simply get close to Formula One, yet many of these racers spurn the well supported World Endurance Championship as they want to remain racing single seaters. This leaves the Indycar series as the only alternative prominent single seater championship outside of F1 or the junior categories such as GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 series.
After Carlin announced earlier this week that they would be joining the rejuvenated Indy Lights series next year, with a view to moving up to the Indycar series in the future, this shows the increasingly appeal of Indycar to the European racing community. Firstly whilst it’s not a particularly new rumour it does seem Daniel Abt is looking to move away from GP2 for next year and join the Indycar grid for next year.
He tested for the Andretti Autosport team in late October at Barber Motorsports Park and Abt was quoted as saying about the test “I had a fantastic day with plenty of fun and learned a lot. I didn’t do this test out of boredom, but would like to explore options for next year. The test was a cool experience that definitely whets my appetite for more.” Whilst Abt has current commitments with the new Formula E series, it does appear Abt is keen to change his direction and leave GP2 for the Indycar series next year.
Another former GP2 rival could be joining him stateside, as the American Conor Daly has switched his attentions back to his homeland after running into budget problems during his second year of GP2 this year. Whilst this once again isn’t a revelation it does show how the series is attracting top line American talent not just European drivers for the series, and Daly would need less acclimatization as he finished the 2013 Indy 500 in 22nd position in a one-off deal for the iconic race.
Another top line American driver that is looking to join the Indycar grid in 2015 is Alex Rossi, formerly the Caterham and Marussia reserve driver seems to have given up on F1 after coming very close this year to making his race debut with the Marussia team. Rossi was set to make his debut at this years Belgian Grand Prix in place of Max Chilton, however Chilton was re-installed at the last minute. Rossi has now switched his attention to the Indycar series for next year. Rossi has spent the last few months talking with prospective teams, and hopes to announce a deal with a competitive team in the next few weeks and into the new year.
British racer and GP3 runner up Dean Stoneman is another driver looking to switch from Europe to the American open wheel racing scene, and hopes to secure himself a Indycar test this winter in preparation for a move stateside. Whilst Stoneman himself feels ready to join the Indycar series, he has also stated if needed to he will join the feeder Indy Lights series first to gain experience of the american road circuits and the ovals. Whilst nothing is concrete at the moment, it seems plenty of Indycar and Indy Lights teams will be interested in him joining them next year. Could a potential link up with British team Carlin work out for Stoneman next year?
The final and most exciting potential rumour surrounding the Indycar series recently has been the news former Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean Eric Vergne is very interested in joining the series, as his next move after being replaced in F1 for next year. The Frenchman has stated he very much is looking at the Indycar series and it seems likely he will have a string of offers to join the series next year. Whilst Vergne may take a season or two to learn the American ovals and road courses, once he gets comfortable Vergne would be a formidable competitor for anyone in the series. Nothing is planned at the moment in terms of tests or significant talks with teams, although it seems likely Vergne’s next stage of his career would be stateside.
After years of struggling with a old car and a decreasing grid, the Indy Lights finally looks to have turned a corner next year with the announcement of a new Dallara race car which has sparked a resurgence in interest in the series. The feeder series to Indycar now appears to have restored itself as a haven for young North American open wheel racers, whilst simultaneously being a viable alternative for frustrated talented young European drivers.
It’s only the middle of October yet already the series has confirmed 10 teams have already agreed to run in the series next year, with likely two cars from each team producing a likely grid of 15-20 cars. This is easily an improvement over the past few years where then entries have been around 10-14 cars. Those already confirming their orders are powerhouse team Schmidt Peterson who have ordered two cars for their Indycar feeder team. Other existing teams to place orders are 2014 front runners Juncos and Belardi racing who have both ordered two cars also. New team McCormack racing have also confirmed their commitment to their series, whilst sportscar team 8star motorsport has confirmed one entry, with the potential for a second also.
Existing teams Andretti Autosport and Team Moore are some of the team likely to have placed orders but yet to go public with their intentions to run in the series next year. On the driving front, it appears the quality of the grid will be greatly improved next year. Championship runner up this year Jack Harvey is working on a deal to return to the series next year. He will be keen for the title but will face stiff competition from the likes of 2014 Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot, who is likely to move up to IndyLights . Others likely to be returning are 2014 front runners Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia. 8Star are also keen to run promising sportscar racer Sean Rayhall if they can find the budget, with young racers Alan Sciuto and Parker Kligerman potentially earning themselves a seat next year after impressive post-season tests so far.
Finally leading the European racing influx so far for next year is Puerto Rican racer Felix Serralles, the only confirmed driver for next year so far. He will join the 2014 champions Belardi racing for next year after some difficult years in the European F3 Championship. Serralles previously proved his considerable talent in the British racing scene, and expect several more racers abandon the cut and thrust money dependent European racing scene for a fresh start at stardom in Indycar.
The final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy scheme is already creating plenty of buzz around the series with an influx of new teams and a new Dallara racer for next year. From here the future looks bright for the Indy Lights series with the support from Mazda providing young drivers the support to move up from the bottom rungs to Indycar, such as with 2014 champion Gabby Chaves and for Spencer Pigot next year. The series will hopefully entice plenty of European racers across to the series with the promise of a part season in Indycar including the a chance at the Indy 500 for the champion surely enough to tempt those disillusioned with the funding required to step up the European single seater echelons below F1. I for one will be eagerly keeping track with the revamped Indy Lights series next year.
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