Indy 500: Driver by driver preview

29,853 views

Ahead of the 102nd running of the greatest spectacle in racing, we rate the drivers and their chances of getting to the front and staying there...

1: Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 229.618

1: Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 229.618
1/33

The three-time Indy 500 polesitter has been strong, running alone and in traffic. He was less happy on Carb Day, and bad luck has haunted him in the past here, but he may have the pace to stay in clean air.

2: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet, 228.761

2: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet, 228.761
2/33

A driver from the de Ferran/Franchitti school, Pagenaud has the hallmarks of an Indy winner. His worry, pre-practice, was finding a setup tunable to ever-changing track conditions. We'll soon know if he succeeded.

3: Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, 228.607

3: Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, 228.607
3/33

Power has looked very strong in practice, able to pull off passes in traffic, and he reckons it's one of the best cars he's ever had at IMS. The #12 pitcrew is slick too. Now he just needs to stay out of other people's messes.

4: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, 228.405

4: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, 228.405
4/33

As bold as they come, as we've seen (to our delight) in the rest of the IndyCar Series. The reigning champ hasn't been absolutely thrilled with his car, but if it's a case of winging it on a slippery track, he's one of the best.

5: Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 228.142

5: Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 228.142
5/33

The fastest Honda driver in qualifying shouldn't find engine output a decisive factor on raceday. The one worry is that when dicing with others in traffic during practice, he lost a lot of ground whenever he was passed.

6: Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 228.107

6: Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 228.107
6/33

Pigot has been missing his team boss's last scintilla of speed but that won't matter on raceday. If he stays out of trouble and ignores the tension of the big occasion, he could pull off a shock result.

7: Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 228.090

7: Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, 228.090
7/33

DP has turned heads by getting right back in the open-wheel game. However, only if she recaptures her old passion for a heads-up scrap will she be a legit victory contender.

8: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 227.262

8: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 227.262
8/33

The ultimate never-count-him-out ace in the 33-driver field, the heat of raceday will require a driver with fast hands, a quick mind and a strong pitcrew. Dixon possesses all three of those qualities…

9: Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet, 227.859

9: Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet, 227.859
9/33

In the first week of practice, the three-time winner was one of the first to learn how to follow close and pass with this new superspeedway kit but as temperatures rose he looked less convincing.

10: Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 227.664

10: Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 227.664
10/33

The 2013 winner has been strong in practice, he has the more favored engine and he's starting in the first third of the field. But pitstops have not been a strong point with AJ Foyt Racing this year.

11: Matheus Leist, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 227.571

11: Matheus Leist, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 227.571
11/33

If media folks were cruel enough to bet on who'll be first DNF, this guy would be a popular choice. But there are always a couple of rookies who overachieve at Indy, and paradoxically Leist could also belong in that group.

12: Marco Andretti, Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda, 227.288

12: Marco Andretti, Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda, 227.288
12/33

Marco has suffered bad luck here at the Brickyard, a true Andretti in that regard, but some years there are also question marks over his raceday setups. But if the lead fight comes down to racing instinct, he will figure.

13: Zachary Claman De Melo, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 226.999

13: Zachary Claman De Melo, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 226.999
13/33

Arguably, ZCDM has been the surprise of the Brickyard for the last two weeks, handling with aplomb his late substitution for Pietro Fittipaldi. Can he keep on keeping it cool? That's the big question.

14: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda, 226.788

14: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda, 226.788
14/33

If Andretti Autosport's #28 car has close to a strong setup for raceday, RHR will wring its neck and take his opportunities like a pro. Watch for him on restarts, too – there should be plenty of them.

15: Charlie Kimball, Carlin Chevrolet, 226.657

15: Charlie Kimball, Carlin Chevrolet, 226.657
15/33

Carlin has done as a team what Claman De Melo has done as a driver – far exceed expectations. Kimball is as brave and gritty as they come but a Top 10 finish should probably be the limit of his expectations.

16: Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 226.557

16: Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 226.557
16/33

The defending winner was exceptional in qualifying in a month when the RLLR cars just haven't looked consistently strong. Whether Taku can keep up the good fight with an ill-handling car for 200 laps is another matter.

17: Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing Chevrolet, 226.398

17: Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing Chevrolet, 226.398
17/33

Like Carlin and Kimball, a Top 10 is probably the best that Kaiser and Juncos can hope for, but that's a heck of a compliment for a rookie in a sophomore team.

18: Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 226.296

18: Robert Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 226.296
18/33

The rising star of IndyCar has been only so-so at IMS - not a reflection on him (except for the shunt) but on the SPM-Honda combo being only mediocre. But team and driver are smart enough to make the most of it.

19: James Davison, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 226.255

19: James Davison, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 226.255
19/33

For the team to rebuild Davison's car so well that he could slot it mid-grid is a remarkable achievement. Reining in his exuberance on raceday may be critical to JDD delivering on his promise at last.

20: Max Chilton, Carlin Chevrolet, 226.212

20: Max Chilton, Carlin Chevrolet, 226.212
20/33

The man who led 50 laps last year is also one of those drivers who knows when to and when not to pick a fight. But if the car's setup starts coming unglued, does he know how to improve it?

21: Carlos Munoz, Andretti Autosport Honda, 226.048

21: Carlos Munoz, Andretti Autosport Honda, 226.048
21/33

A former Indy winner told this writer that Munoz has been the most impressive driver he's seen in practice, able to haul his AA-Honda onto the tail of other cars and make passes. He'll need to from 21st.

22: Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing Chevrolet, 226.007

22: Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing Chevrolet, 226.007
22/33

On the anniversary of this little team's debut, Gabby could be good for another Top 10 finish. Anything more than that is unrealistic given the strength of the opposition.

23: Stefan Wilson, Andretti Autosport Honda, 225.863

23: Stefan Wilson, Andretti Autosport Honda, 225.863
23/33

The brother of the late great Justin Wilson worked damn hard to be at Indy again after vacating his ride for Fernando Alonso last year. Visibly more confident than on his debut in 2016, a Top 15 run is on the cards.

24: Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 225.823

24: Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 225.823
24/33

Karam was once wild and brave, now (hopefully) he's merely brave – and skillful. DRR has struggled a little, despite having Chevy power, but Dennis Reinbold's cars tend to run far stronger on raceday.

25: Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport Honda, 225.748

25: Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport Honda, 225.748
25/33

This kid thrives in tail-happy cars, so he could make progress when the track offers less grip. But it will take strategic ingenuity from Josh Freund to make him prominent enough for anyone to notice his skills.

26: Oriol Servia, Scuderia Corsa with RLL Honda, 225.699

26: Oriol Servia, Scuderia Corsa with RLL Honda, 225.699
26/33

The veteran so nearly got bumped from the field of 33, but he's mentally strong and nine previous starts have taught him how to be a survivor, so don't be surprised if he finishes in the top five.

27: J.R. Hildebrand, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 225.418

27: J.R. Hildebrand, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 225.418
27/33

Hildebrand has been snakebit at this place – it seems there's always an incident of some sort. But he's already scraped the wall in practice, so hopefully a clean run can see him head firmly into the Top 10.

28: Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / AFS Racing Honda, 225.388

28: Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / AFS Racing Honda, 225.388
28/33

He's been fast at IMS over the past couple of years, and he's brave, too. But the ring rustiness he fatefully showed last year on raceday is unlikely to be vastly improved, and that can cost him a decent finish.

29: Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 225.362

29: Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 225.362
29/33

You can bet that Chip Ganassi and Barry Wanser will find a way to get Jones up near the front, and he (and the car) should have the pace to stay there. Then it comes down to whether off-strategy can stay on point.

30: Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 225.327

30: Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 225.327
30/33

Rahal is used to storming through the field here, but he's arguably never had to do it in a car that behaves so peculiarly in the draft. The team hasn't looked great this month, but Graham's car control can make up for a lot.

31: Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing with SPM Honda, 225.254

31: Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing with SPM Honda, 225.254
31/33

Harvey is fast and smart and aggressive, and he'll need all those qualities to finish even Top 15. But it's not unreasonable to expect Shank's crew to deliver on pitlane now they have a couple of races under their belts.

32: Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda, 224.935

32: Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda, 224.935
32/33

Team manager Rob Edwards is likely to switch Rossi onto an alternate strategy – a good one – at the first available opportunity. AA drivers aren't thrilled with their cars, but amazingly, that may not be critical this year.

33: Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing dba Thom Burns Racing Honda, 224.429

33: Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing dba Thom Burns Racing Honda, 224.429
33/33

Daly bumped out two very popular drivers – James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann – to get his USAF 'Thunderbird' in the field. He'll surely be careful not to waste this golden opportunity, but his car has yet to look quick.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Event Indy 500
Track Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Article type Preview