Ranking the Indy 500 Field

5/24/12 in IndyCar   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - Ranking the Indy 500 FieldYesterday I published a preview of the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. However, I did not include a race pick. Today I will rank the field from 33 to 1, with my #1 constituting my pick to win the race. This is a very deep field. While the top drivers and the teams will certainly be in the mix, there is no obvious favorite, and a few lesser known drivers on small teams have a reasonable chance to win. Think my rankings are off base? Then take our set of Indy 500 prediction polls to test your predictive skills. With that, on to the rankings (in parenthesis are the driver’s car number, primary sponsor, and colors of the car, in order to help you all figure out who’s who on race day) :
 
The Hopeless Lotuses
 
33. Jean Alesi (No. 64, FP Journe, Black and Gold)
32. Simona de Silvestro (No. 78, Nuclear Clean Air Energy, Green and White)
 
As I’ve mentioned before, the Lotus engine has been well off the pace. Alesi and de Silvestro have done all they can with it, but they’ve been consistently 10-15 mph slower than the rest of the field.  There had been speculation that the Lotuses would be allowed some extra boost for the race, but IndyCar decided against that. As such, these two are more likely to be parked early for being too slow than anything else. Sad for all involved.
 
Looking to Finish
 
This group has a lot of talent, but due to circumstance and/or inexperience, seeing the checkered flag is probably the primary goal. In most cases, you’ve got to walk before you can run here.
 
31. Katherine Legge (No. 6, TRUECar, Blue and White)
 
It’s been a tough season for the ex-Champ Car driver. She hadn’t been in an open wheel car in 5 years, and spent the first part of the season stuck with Lotus. Her team was able to switch to Chevy, but they didn’t get the engines until Thursday, leaving Legge with little time to complete her rookie orientation and get ready for qualifying. This’ll be a learning experience, but at least without the Lotus, she’ll have a fighting chance.
 
30. Michel Jourdain, Jr. (No. 30, Office Depot, Orange, Green, and White)
 
Jourdain first came to the Speedway in 1996 at age 19. Sixteen years later, he makes his second start. Jourdain raced on the CART/Champ Car side of the split, winning twice. He’s a solid professional, but unlikely to be a factor.
 
29. Wade Cunningham (No. 41, ECat/ABC Supply, Red, White, and Blue)
 
Cunningham won the Indy Lights race at Indianapolis, the Freedom 100, three times, and makes his debut in the big race this year. It was long overdue for Wade to get a shot.  Driving for AJ Foyt, the car, and the team, has yet to find a lot of speed. Thus, Wade’s main duty might be not pissing AJ off.
 
28. James Jakes (No. 19, Boy Scouts of America, Red and Blue)
 
Jakes is in his second year in IndyCars, but he’ll be listed as a rookie on race day, as he didn’t make the show last year. Jakes has proven so far in his career to be solid, but results haven’t come. Driving for Dale Coyne Racing, who has never shown much at the Speedway, he’s unlikely to be mentioned much on ABC unless he has an accident.
 
27. Mike Conway (No. 14, ABC Supply, Red, White, and Blue)
 
AJ Foyt’s primary driver, Conway has had rotten luck at Indianapolis. In 2010, he broke his back in this horrific crash at the end of the race, and last year, he didn’t qualify. He’s already improved on last year just by being in the show. For the race, this road course specialist is primarily hoping to avoid a repeat of 2010.
 
26. EJ Viso (No. 5, CITGO, Orange and White)
 
Yes, he’s starting ninth, and yes, so far this year he’s kept it out of the wall, but until Viso proves he can go 500 miles without wrecking himself, this is where he goes.
 
May 12, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Bryan Clauson on pit road during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE25. Bryan Clauson (No. 39, Angie’s List, Green and Black)
 
The two-time USAC National Champion has a grand total of 6 races of formula car experience: all in Indy Lights last year. Despite that, the kid hadn’t turned a wheel wrong all month into Pole Day qualifying, when he stuck it into the wall on the last lap. That turned what looked like a Row 4 or 5 start into a last row start, after the team went very conservative on Bump Day. Clauson’s talent has shown, but given that he has the least experience of anyone in the field, a day like 18th and a lap down will look really good all things considered. This race is very much a building block for the future more than anything else for him.
 
Top Ten is a Victory
 
This group can’t be considered potential winners for one reason or another, but top 10 or even top five are in the realm of possibility.
 
24. Sebastian Saavedra (No. 17, AFS, Yellow and Orange)
 
Saavedra was a rookie at the Speedway in 2010, starting last and finishing 23rd. He was rookie in IndyCar last season and struggled, including missing the 500. Things have looked up this race though, as Saavedra hooked up with Andretti Autosport and has been just as fast as the rest of the team. A blown engine in qualifying is the only reason he’s not up at the front with the rest of them, as he starts 24th. At just 21 years old, a good finish can put Saavedra back on the map.
 
23. Charlie Kimball (No. 83, Novo Nordisk, Orange and Blue)
 
Kimball has looked much improved in this, his second year in IndyCars. That improvement has continued here at Indy, as he qualified a solid 14th, ahead of his two championship winning teammates. However, Kimball crashed during practice the next day, so his car is a bit of unknown going into Carb Day on Friday and the race. No matter what happens, if Kimball is slow late in the race, hopefully he knows now to head for the warm up lane.
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