Ranking the Indy 500 Field

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

May 15, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar series driver Ana Beatriz is seen in the pits during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE22. Ana Beatriz (No. 25, Ipiranga, Yellow and Blue)
Beatriz is in a similar situation as Saavedra: a rookie in the series last year who didn’t particularly impress, but has signed with Andretti Autosport for the month and looked good. Also like Saavedra, Bia is also looking to stay on the radar of IndyCar teams with a good performance. The word is she’s impressed Michael Andretti, so she looks on her way.
21. Justin Wilson (No. 18, Sonny’s BBQ, Red and White)
Wilson is among the best on road and street courses, but he’s not at that level on ovals, and thus won’t contend for the win. He’s as professional as they come though, and can be counted on to run a solid race.
20. Takuma Sato (No. 15, MiJack, White and Blue)
Very similar to Wilson, in that they’re both ex-F1 drivers who are more at home on road courses. Sato, though, has been much more inconsistent in his IndyCar career. This year though Sato has been steadier than in the past, so it’s not out of the question he could surprise.
19. Townsend Bell (No. 99, BraunAbility, Blue and White)
Bell has had a fine career at Indy, which unfortunately is about the only time he can get an IndyCar ride. He’d be higher if it weren’t for him having a pretty difficult month. He’s been near the bottom of the speed charts most of the month, and his whirlwind schedule of ALMS driving, Indy 500 driving, and pit reporting for NBC Sports Network might be catching up to him. He was complaining of vertigo in the car last Sunday, and has to get an IV due to dehydration. Still, I fear I’ve underrated him.
The Darkhorses
Just as it says. Are these guys likely to win? No. Could they if things go their way? Absolutely.
18. Simon Pagenaud (No. 77, HP, Blue and White)
Pagenaud may be a rookie, but he hasn’t driven like one this season, sitting fifth at points and first among the Honda drivers. This May though, has been much different. His team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, hasn’t shown the speed they did last year and thus he’ll start a disappointing 23rd. However, Pagenaud has done nothing but impress this year, and thus he can’t be counted out completely.
17. Oriol Servia (No. 22, Unsponsored, Black)
Servia is the long-time veteran who always gets the most of the car. He’s the key on a team that only recently ditched the Lotus and suffered a crash in qualifying. On paper, his team, Dreyer & Reinbold, shouldn’t be anywhere close to winning, and even with Servia will need a lot to go their way. With Servia though, it’s still a possibility.
16. Sebastien Bourdais (No. 7, McAfee, Black and Chrome)May 17, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar series driver Sebastien Bourdais pulls into his pit stall during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
Bourdais is Katherine Legge’s teammate at Dragon Racing, and thus also didn’t get into a car this month until two days before qualifying. Of course, Bourdais is the four time Champ Car champion, and is as talented as anyone else in the paddock.  Now that he has a real engine, he immediately becomes a factor, both here and especially the rest of the season.
15. Ed Carpenter (No. 20, Fuzzy’s Vodka, Green and White)
Carpenter has a good record at Indianapolis, the track he may one day run, and is the most recent winner on an oval. I expected before the month to have him even higher on this list, but it’s been a difficult time for Ed in his first 500 as an owner/driver. He hasn’t been particularly fast and suffered a wicked crash on Pole Day. The team had to qualify their backup car, but if they can finally hit the setup, Ed will move up from his 28th starting position and move up quickly.
The Wild Card
14. Rubens Barrichello (No. 8, BMC, Blue)
No one in the field is more experienced in high level racing than Barrichello and his 322 career F1 starts. However, his number of starts on an oval? Zero. His IndyCar career has been more OK than anything else so far, and he wasn’t exactly lighting it up during practice here. On Pole Day though, the team figured something out and Barrichello qualified 10th. I don’t really know how this is going to play for Rubens, and I doubt anyone really does either, but he’s too talented and has enough car under him for me to rank him any lower.
The Hot Shot Rookie
13. Josef Newgarden (No. 67, Dollar General, Yellow and Black)
Newgarden has been the talk of the season, and the Month of May. Everyone is impressed with this kid, and IndyCar fans are dreaming big things. However, the Indy 500 is a completely different animal than anything else, and as we’ve seen, it’s very hard for a rookie to win. Newgarden certainly has the talent though, and what a story it would be if the young American could win while driving for Sarah Fisher.
May 15, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar series driver JR Hildebrand pulls out of his pit stall during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIREThe Redemption Story
12. JR Hildebrand (No. 4, National Guard, Camouflage)
One corner away. That’s what separated JR Hildebrand from immortality last year. This year, he’s been about mid pack most of the month, and qualified a disappointing 18th. The momentum doesn’t seem there, but this is a team that has finished second four times in a row. They can’t be counted, and JR has the ability to find the ultimate redemption.
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