IRL: Indy field in flux as May unfolds

The field for the 2007 Indianapolis 500 remains in a state of flux as team owners and drivers jockey for the best combination they can achieve for the Memorial Day race. Looking at the entrant list one can identify thirty-one solid ...

The field for the 2007 Indianapolis 500 remains in a state of flux as team owners and drivers jockey for the best combination they can achieve for the Memorial Day race.

Looking at the entrant list one can identify thirty-one solid car/driver combinations as of Monday May 7th. What is remarkable about that number, though, is not the fact that bumping is a real possibility come qualifying; but rather that there are more than ten drivers and cars that one could justify with argument in their favor to win The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

At the head of the field are the Indy Racing League regulars from Team Penske, Andretti/Green Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. With the addition of Michael Andretti, the "Elite Eight" of Hornish, Castroneves, Franchitti, Kanaan, Marco, Danica Patrick, Wheldon and Scott Dixon all have significant factors weighing in any consideration of who might win when the race goes off on Sunday, May 27th.

A necessary codicile to that stanza, though, are the names of Panther Racing's Vitor Meira and RLR's Scott Sharp. Neither driver has ever won the 500, and in Vitor's case an IRL race after sixty tries; but if Indianapolis' fickle springtime weather comes into play it is not at all inconceivable that either Vitor or Scott could drive into a rain-shortened Victory Lane, just as Buddy Rice did three years before.

Another dark horse is Darren Manning, a superb driver with a determined Foyt Racing Team, looking to celebrate its fiftieth 500 with a Texas-size bang. Throw in always-fast Tomas Scheckter from Vision Racing and you have a reasonably conceived field of no less than thirteen drivers that contend not only on Pole Day but on race day as well.

Among the newest entries, two of which were only announced Sunday (May 6th) on Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are Jimmy Kite (PDM Racing) and Davey Hamilton (Vision Racing). Both are veterans, which in Hamilton's case is almost an abuse of the word, as he has compiled mile upon mile of seat-time around this 2.5 mile oval driving the IRL's two-seater with celebrities and well-heeled fans aboard after his career was almost ended with a serious accident at Texas Speedway in 2001.

There's a maiden voyage in play for Susan Schafer's Playa Del Racing rookie Phil Giebler, again a rookie in name, but one who has competed on this track in the Indy Pro Series on two previous occasions, and won the first oval-track race of his IRL career in 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Ryan Briscoe, a fast Australian who has made one prior Indy 500 start, took over the seat of the Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing machine over the weekend, and wasted little time getting over two hundred and twenty miles per hour in Rookie Orientation on Monday (May 7th).

The kicker for Briscoe and his team is they operate with Roger Penske's son Jay and co-owner Steve Luczo at the helm; and have resources that one might reasonably understate, like Rolls Royce says, as "adequate".

One might even draw some conclusions from the fact that their garage space in Gasoline Alley conveniently abuts the spaces of the Team Penske juggernaut, with them occupying the entirety of the southeastern face of the "A" building.

Citgo's immense piggy-bank backs Milka Duno, D&R's Sarah Fisher has the hearts of American fans everywhere, her teammate Buddy Rice needs to write his name into Brickyard history again, Jeff Simmons' enormous Ethanol promise is yet to be fulfilled and Ed Carpenter, AJ Foyt IV (Vision) and Kosuke Matsuura (Panther) round out the known entries to date, bringing the total thus far to twenty-four names assigned cars.

On the second page come Jon Herb (Racing Professionals), Jaques Lazier (Playa Del Racing), Marty Roth, PJ Jones (Leader/Dollander) and Al Unser Jr (driving for Foyt). Stephan Gregoire in the Chastain Motorsports car and Buddy Lazier (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) make up the thirty-one entries one can "put a finger on" as more than simply "garage space" in Gasoline Alley.

Teams who have made entry without a driver listed include Cabbie Motorsports, a TBA Panther Racing entry, a third Foyt Racing seat, the Curb/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports car, and an unfilled entry from Team Penske. Longshot Ron Hemelgarn has an entry in the books, as does Curb have a second car on file; but chances are neither of those entries goes much beyond wishful thinking at this point.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Milka Duno , Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Sarah Fisher , Jon Herb , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Kite , Scott Dixon , Sam Schmidt , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Marty Roth , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Phil Giebler , Roger Penske , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Al Unser , Jaques Lazier , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dragon Racing