Who’s Who? Indy 500

The 101st running of the Indy 500 is just around the corner. The interest seems to be at an all time high due to Fernando Alonso bucking the trend and missing the Monaco Grand Prix to take part in the prestigious event. Some may know all the drivers in the series, some may only recognise a few of the drivers from the past when they raced in different series, but some people have always raced in America. There are 33 drivers in the race Sunday, but who is actually racing?

Here we have a short preview of each driver competing in the Indy 500 based in grid order for the race, looking at livery, so cars to keep an eye for, current form and history at Indianapolis if they have raced before at the brickyard, or at all in the Indycar series.

ROW 1

#9 Scott Dixon
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: New Zealander
Livery: Dark/Light Blue
Championship Position: 2

First up we have Scott Dixon, an Indycar legend, securing pole for an event he won nine years ago. He is a quadruple champion of the series, and the leading non-American in all time list of wins. Scott is known for his speed, winning on his debut back in the season of 2003, and put this forward even more securing pole for this year. Scott currently sits second in the championship after finishing second in the previous round on the Indianapolis road course. Can he put pressure on the leader of the series, and win in the brickyard for the second time?

#20 Ed Carpenter
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Dark Green/Gold
Championship Position: 22

Ed is an owner of his own racing team, and has decided to take part in events at his own leisure. He has only so far this season been involved in one race, and that was the first oval of the season at Phoenix which he finished 7th. Ed has won on an oval in the past, but it would be a first at Indy. He looked calm and collected during the days of practice. His recent races at Indianapolis have been very disappointing, classified no higher than 27th in the last 3 years. He is capable of more, so lets see if he can put forward qualifying pace into the race.

#98 Alexander Rossi
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: American
Livery: Dark Blue/Yellow
Championship Position: 9

Alex has taken to the Verizon Indycar Series like a duck to water. Rossi has shown it can be done, he won the Indy 500 in his debut season last year. He started 11th and through amazing fuel management managed to avoid entering pit road like other drivers. Fernando Alonso can take hope from that. He finished 11th in the series last year, and has built upon that. Although he has been competitive but through car faults isn’t as high as he should be in the championship. Runs well at Indy, could he win back to back?

ROW 2

#26 Takuma Sato
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: Japanese
Livery: Dark Blue/White
Championship Position: 10

Takuma has been racing in the Indycar Series since 2010, after a short hiatus following the fold of Super Aguri in Formula 1 in 2008. He is known for his consistency in the Formula 1 series. It is a first season with Andretti Motorsport after several seasons with AJ Foyt. He is most famous and respected in the Indycar Series for going for broke in the 2012 running of the Indy 500,on the last lap trying to pass Dario Franchitti for the win. The move did not come off, and the Japanese driver ended up in the wall. A very solid so far in the season, can Takuma push for his second win in the series, at Indycar’s grandest stage of them all?

#29 Fernando Alonso (R)
Team: Mclaren-Honda-Andretti (Andretti Motorsport)
Nationality: Spanish
Livery: Orange
Championship Position: N/A

Fernando Alonso, the main man, maybe why most Europeans will be switching over in the evening to watch the event after the Monaco Grand Prix in the early afternoon. Fernando hasn’t had the best of luck in Formula 1 in recent years, with non competitive cars, not being able to show his true potential, he has outdrove the car that McLaren have provided him. Unlike Formula 1 the chassis that the drivers use in Indycar is all the same, the Dallara DW12. Jokes were made before qualifying after the team decided to make a precautionary engine change, he qualified 5th after never racing on an oval before. With a level playing field, could Alonso unleash his skill, and win the second of the Triple Crown of Motorsport?

#21 JR Hildebrand
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Livery: White/Dark Blue
Championship Position: 14

JR is a great driver in the Indycar Series, he debuted in the 2010 season, and has been a great spectacle since. He has yet to taste victory, but at Phoenix this season he achieved his best ever result in third. In recent seasons JR has been a part time driver, only taking part in the Indianapolis events and albeit missing the third round of this year, it is the closest he has been to a full season since 2012. Nothing could be better than winning the Indianapolis, and even yet it being your first ever win, could it be the turn of JR at victory lane?

ROW 3

#10 Tony Kanaan
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: Brazilian
Livery: Light Blue
Championship Position: 11

Tony is a seasoned veteran of the series, racing before in the series of Champ Car before it merged to become the Indycar series. Tony has tasted the milk at Indy before in 2013, and last year finished fourth in the 100th running. He had a terrible race last time out at the road course due to a collision, and could not recover from it, so has a point to prove. His most recent win was in 2014 at California, also on an oval and he has the experience at 42. Could he use that to be only one of few to win the event twice?

#27 Marco Andretti
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: American
Livery: White/Light Blue
Championship Position: 18

Marco is third generation of the famous Andretti Motorsport family, and currently drives for the family team. Marco as of yet in his career is yet to match his father/grandfather, with his most recent victory back in 2011. Luck has not been on Marco’s side this year, the season looked good after finishing 7th at the season opener in St. Petersburg, but since then finishing no higher than 16th at the road course has left Marco far away from the series lead. His grandfather won the race back in 1969, whilst his father never won, could he match his grandfather and show how his dad, the team boss, he can win once more?

#12 Will Power
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: Australian
Livery: Silver
Championship Position: 5

Will is the driver on form, winning last time out on Indy’s road course comfortably pushing himself back in to championship contention. He has won the series once in the past with Team Penske in 2014, and was runner up last year and on three other occasions. He has yet to taste victory in the Indy 500 albeit winning twice prior in the road course. Will has won at ovals in the past but street circuits are more of a forte, tied with the most amount of victories. A driver that on his day cannot be beaten, can Will put his pace from the road course onto the oval, and win for the first time?

ROW 4

#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: American
Livery: Yellow/Red
Championship Position: 8

Ryan is a previous Indycar series champion back in 2012, in his first season with Andretti Motorsport. He has been racing since 2003, with multiple race victories, including his Indy 500 victory in 2014. Ryan is a very thoughtful driver and has run with number 28 since 2011, it being 28 due to the amount of predicted million people with cancer after his mother fighting the disease. In good form heading into the event after finishing third in the road course, bettering his season best 4th at the season opener. Ryan was the fastest of the rest out of the fast nine, could he win for a second time and be fastest of them all?

#19 Ed Jones (R)
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: White/Blue/Red
Championship Position: 12

Ed is the sole full time rookie in the 2017 Indycar series, after winning the support series Indy Lights in 2016. Ed looked strong in practice and qualifying and looked like he would make the fast 9 for a chance for pole but narrowly missed out. He has a series best finish of 6th at Long Beach but lacked pace at the road course. in the Indy Lights he won at the Indy road course race, and came second in their version of the Indy 500. Alex Rossi showed a rookie can win the race, can Ed repeat that?

#16 Oriol Servia
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Nationality: Spanish
Livery: Yellow/White
Championship Position: N/A

This is Oriol’s first race of the season, a part time driver for the Rahal team, taking part in races 6-8 of the 2017 series. He has sporadically taken part in the series and not done a full season since 2011 with only the Indy 500 being the only, if not one of the few he raced in the seasons. Oriol is yet to win in the Indycar series, and does currently have other interests that may distract him, he did run in the Formula E championship with Dragon Racing and since become a managing director. His best finish in the races at Indianapolis has been 4th, could he improve that, put Formula E aside and win for the first time?

ROW 5

#7 Mikhail Aleshin
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Nationality: Russian
Livery: Red/Black
Championship Position: 17

Russian Mikhail comparing to the majority of the field could still be seen as a rookie, racing with the same team since 2014, and taking a gap in 2015, he has only raced in two Indy 500’s. A lacklustre season this time round, victory at the Brickyard would transform his season. Is he ready to shock everyone on raceday?

#15 Graham Rahal
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Red
Championship Position: 13

Rahal has been racing in Indycar since its inaugural season, with solid 4th/5th finishes in the last two seasons. Graham won last year at the Texas Motor Speedway, and has come close to winning the Indy 500 on multiple occasions, in the top 5 in recent couple years, at best 3rd in 2011. Relatively young considering for the experience he has in the series, Rahal does know how to win in the Indycar series and finished in 6th at the road course. Could he continue with this momentum of the best result of the season and win for the first time?

ROW 6

#8 Max Chilton
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: British
Livery: Dark Blue/Blue/White
Championship Position: 15

Max Chilton joined the Indycar series in 2016 after being promoted from Indy Lights in his rookie season, following his departure from Marussia in Formula 1 due to their collapse. Retired Indycar legend Brit Dario Franchitti has taken Max under his wing to improve him for the season ahead. He had a very quiet rookie season with his best finish being on an oval early in the season at Phoenix. It seems that the help from Dario is improving him, except for his collision at Phoenix he has solid results. His best finish was last time out on the road course, could Max finally deliver on the big stage?

#83 Charlie Kimball
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Black/Lime Green
Championship Position: 19

Charlie is a good reliable and consistent driver, last season he had a spree of top 10 finishes in the latter half of the season. He has raced with Chip Ganassi since the beginning as a full time driver. His form on ovals looks good, finishing 8th at Phoenix this season and his last two races on the oval at Indianapolis have seen him finish in the top 5, 3rd and 5th respectively. He has won once in the series back in 2013 in Mid-Ohio, will he be able to add to this, and improve further on his streak of impressive results?

#5 James Hinchcliffe
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Nationality: Canadian
Livery: Brown/Black
Championship Position: 6

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe is in good spirits ahead of the race, looking good prior, especially winning the second race of the season around the streets of Long Beach, the first time winning since 2015 at Louisiana. He has history at the event, in 2014 he was hit by debris, causing concussion and needing medical clearance to race again. In 2015 he suffered a suspension failure causing an enormous near fatal crash in practice, causing him to miss the rest of that season. He bounced back to secure pole last year, but can he finally taste victory after all the history James has had at the brickyard?

ROW 7

#18 Juan Pablo Montoya
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: Black
Championship Position: 23

Seasoned veteran Montoya has been around a long time, now reaching 41, this could be one of the few times we see Montoya racing again. He has been around in near enough every big racing series, beginning in CART/Indycar then moving to Formula 1 to NASCAR and then back to Indycar. Montoya albeit now a part time racer, after being ousted by Penske last year may not take racing as serious as he once did. He finished 10th on his return on the road course last time out. Juan has won the Indy 500 twice now, but his most recent ended in the wall when he lost the car in the middle of the race. Can he show he still has it, and win for the third time?

#3 Helio Castroneves
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: Brazilian
Livery: Teak/White
Championship Position: 4

Helio has been racing non-stop in Indycar since 2001, and with Team Penske all the way. He is the nearly man in terms of the outright championship, runner up on 4 separate occasions over his career and never winning the title. He is only 1 of 5 drivers to manage to win the Indy 500 in consecutive years, and they were his first two attempts. Helio manged to win for a third time in 2009, 7 years after that feat in 2002. He is looking very strong, with all races this season finishing amongst the top 9 drivers, albeit it has been a while since he tasted victory. With current form, knowing how to win at the brickyard and strong rapport with his team, could we see Helio join that illustrious group of 4 time winners?

#77 Jay Howard
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Nationality: British
Livery: Blue/White
Championship Position: N/A

This is a one off for Jay, after a 6 year hiatus from the series, financed by Tony Stewart. He last three races of that year were all ovals, and has raced at Indianapolis before. Jay seems to have improved two-fold especially with his qualifying position. The closest he has come was in 2011 running up the front of the field, but then a puncture resulted him falling multiple laps behind. Can Howard try to get a full time seat for 2018 by winning this season’s race?

#24 Sage Karam
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Black/Yellow
Championship Position: N/A

This is a one off for the team of Dreyer & Reinbold, and Sage Karam. The 2013 Indycar Lights champion managed to secure his seat with this time for third time in the last 4 seasons albeit taking part in the 4 recent 500’s. He has been a full time driver for one season with Chip Ganassi, but elsewhere has only done this event. The team only take part in this event since 2013 as they were unable to secure stable sponsorship. Sage hasn’t seen the glory days like his title win, and disappointingly being classified 32nd in the last two races. Can Sage return to the glory days and win?

ROW 8

#2 Josef Newgarden
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: American
Livery: Black
Championship Position: 4

Josef is entering his 6th Indy 500 and his 1st with Team Penske after making the switch from Ed Carpenter Racing last year. He has his strong and weak tracks, and he seems to enjoy the Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama, having achieved podiums in the last 3 years, and importantly winning in 2017. He has good form at Indianapolis progressively getting better, taking third last year. Josef finished 4th in last year’s standings, and third at Indy, if he keeps managing to improve could he win the race, and push on for first title too?

#1 Simon Pagenaud
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: French
Livery: Yellow
Championship Position: 1

2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud is one of modern day Indycar’s best, always pushing up front for victories, and never give up attitude. Simon does have one flaw and it seems to be his form on ovals, all wins prior to this year at Phoenix, were on street or road courses. The Frenchman as of yet has not finished outside the top 5 at all races, and looks very certain to be in the mix for his second title. He was close to winning the 2015 Indy 500, but tailed off late on due to tyres. Simon currently sits first in the standings but a lowly qualifying may hinder his chances at increasing the lead, as well as winning the Indy 500 for the first time. Could he build upon the fact he managed to win on an oval for the first time in his career this season, and win the 500 for the first time too?

#14 Carlos Munoz
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: Red/White/Blue
Championship Position: 16

Carlos is a solid racing driver, and has been strong throughout the young years of his Indycar career, now settling into his 4th full season, after races here and there after his progression from Indy Lights he has always been one to keep an eye on. His Indy 500 form is really good too, in the four attempts he has finished runner up on two occasions, once being last year. Current season form has lacked, and currently not living up to expectations after his move from Andretti Motorsport which he raced for last 3 seasons. He has come so close to winning the Indy 500, can he manage to finally go one better this time?

ROW 9

#88 Gabby Chaves
Team: Harding Racing
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: White/Light Blue
Championship Position: N/A

Gabby is entering his first event, of the three that himself and Harding Racing have decided to enter this year, from the selection of races it seems that they are solely interested in the thrill of ovals, with Indianapolis, Texas and Pocono being the races. The team see this as a taster for maybe a full term season in 2018. Gabby has raced at Indianapolis previous, in the last two years, finishing in the midfield. With Harding Racing possibly looking for a full time driver for next season, what better way could Gabby put himself forward by winning the Indy 500?

#4 Conor Daly
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Nationality: American
Livery: Red/White/Blue
Championship Position: 16

Conor is in his second full time seat in the Indycar series, after moving around from the GP3/GP2 series, it seems he has finally found a footing and a base where he can settle and improve. His Dad, Derek, was a previous Indy/F1 driver, so racing is in his blood. He had some great races last year, finishing on the podium for the first time at Detroit, the race after the Indy 500. This will be his fourth Indy 500, and as of yet from previous results his season has really yet to start, could this a be the turning point? His form at the event isn’t very good, but things can change, does Daly’s season start here?

#50 Jack Harvey (R)
Team: Michael Shank Racing (Andretti Motorsport)
Nationality: British
Livery: Black/Yellow/Pink
Championship Position: N/A

Jack is entering his not only first Indy 500, but his first ever Indycar race. He has been racing in America for the last few years, in 2014 & 2015 in the Indy Lights support series he classified second in both final standings. For the team that Jack is representing, it is also a first time they are taking part in the event, they were looking back in 2013, but nothing was finalised in time. The British driver won at his last visit to Indianapolis in the Indy Lights in 2015, yet to perform on the big stage, could he pull one of the shocks of all time and win his first ever race, being his first Indy 500?

ROW 10

#63 Pippa Mann
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Nationality: British
Livery: White/Pink
Championship Position: N/A

Pippa is the sole woman driver in this year’s running of the Indy 500, she has taken part in 5 of the last 6 races, finishing in 4 of them. This is her sole chance to shine in 2017 as she isn’t expected to take part in any other events in the series this year. Pippa has tasted victory on an oval in America in the Indy Lights series at Kentucky, so knows how to win. As of yet there has never been a female winner, could Pippa become the first ever woman to win the race?

#11 Spencer Pigot
Team: Juncos Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Green/White
Championship Position: 21

Spencer races for owner/driver Ed Carpenter, and as owner Ed has decided he wishes to race in the Indy 500. Spencer therefore lost his seat. This would be Spencer’s only second time entering the race, his 2016 participation didn’t end well, finishing considerable amount of laps down due to running out of fuel during a caution. Spencer has taken part in the event, and experienced the sheer speed of the cars around the brickyard. He is known as a road course driver, could he put his argument across a full season drive with a win?

#44 Buddy Lazier
Team: Lazier Partner Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: White
Championship Position: N/A

Buddy at the tender age of 49 is entering his 20th Indy 500, and it is once more like the previous 5 attempts the only race he will take part in within the series. He has won the Indy 500 in the past, the 1996 race, it was his first of many race wins in the Indycar series. Buddy won the series in the year 2000. At the age of 49 if he were to win the event, he would break the record of the eldest driver to win the event, eclipsing the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Al winning at age 47. Could Buddy break those records and win for the second time?

ROW 11

#17 Sebastian Saavedra
Team: Juncos Racing
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: Green/White
Championship Position: N/A

The second entrant for the race for the Juncos Racing team, Sebastian like the team is running in his only event of the 2017 season. He has raced at Indianapolis before on many an occasion. He has raced in 2 full seasons in Indycar, with a best finish of 8th, his last outing at Indy in 2015 ended with an accident that saw him being taken by ambulance to the medical facility on track. The crash resulted in him being unable to exit the car under on his own steam, and needing assistance to do so. Sebastian has raced at Indianapolis before and finished the race, experienced the lows of crashing out, but could he experience the high of winning it for the first time? It may get team bosses looking at him for a full race seat for 2018?

#40 Zach Veach (R)
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Nationality: American
Livery: White/Purple
Championship Position: 24

Zach has had experience in Indycar once so far in his career, and that was at Alabama road course earlier on the season, replacing the injured Hildebrand. He has raced at Indianapolis before in the support series Indy Lights, but this is his rookie season. He is slowly coming to grips with the extreme changes between the two series. He finished 19th at Alabama, and his three races in Indy Lights at Indianapolis he finished solidly in the top 10. Albeit last qualified, anything is possible, could Zach win for AJ Foyt?

#18 James Davison
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Nationality: Australian
Livery: White/Red
Championship Position: N/A

James is replacing the injured Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais who suffered a frightening crash during qualifying, which left him needing surgery after a 220mph impact. James is rumoured to keep Sebastian’s seat until the end of the season. He has raced in the Indy 500 on two previous occasions, albeit no higher than 16th finish. Could James win, make the most of what a great opportunity he has been given? If he does though, you have to feel for Bourdais, he looked untouchable in qualifying.

I do hope these little insights do help everyone in terms of a bit of background information on each driver, and highlights of some of the previous Indy 500s. As a whole we have a few rookies, various winners and some true Indycar legends in the field for the 101st running of the Indy 500. What is needed is pure commitment, speed and a pinch of luck to win at the brickyard, will it be someone new? or will it be someone adding to their name to select few of winning in multiple times. We shall see, but I for one am thoroughly looking forward to the race.

Chris Lord
Image courtesy of Eric Barnes

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