Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ranking Last 14 Indy 500s

So, to get extra pumped for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2017, I watched all of the Indianapolis 500s since 2003. I picked 2003 because that is the year Andretti-Green Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing joined Team Penske as full-time teams in the Indy Racing League, thus giving the race life that it had been lacking in the dark-days of The Split. Here are how I ranked the Indy 500s from worst to best.


14) 2005 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dan Wheldon

While the last 30 laps were pretty damn exciting, most of the rest of the race was pretty uneventful. Some good scraps existed throughout the track and the winning driver, Dan Wheldon, was phenomenal. But the mass hysteria over Danica Patrick's finish, which I would call extremely lucky, coupled with a general poor race didn't make for the best TV.


Wheldon wins Indy 500 #1 and first for Michael Andretti (Photo: AP)


13) 2006 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Sam Hornish Jr.

Of course this race had an all-time classic Indianapolis 500 finish, as Sam Hornish Jr., who battled back from almost being lap down and a pit gaffe, somehow came from behind and beat Marco Andretti at the line by a couple of feet. But prior to the epic last 10 lap shootout, the race was a total snooze. Hornish, Ma. and Michael Andretti were only in the position to contend because of strategy. The drivers who dominated (Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Helio Castroneves) got burned and fell through in the final stages of the race. The finish was great, the race was not.


The Andretti Curse hit Marco early (Photo: NY Times)


12) 2009 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Helio Castroneves

There was a couple of dramatic moments in this race. First lap and first turn, Mario Moraes moved up the track on Marco Andretti and both were knocked out of the race. Later on in the race, Tony Kanaan suffered a mechanical failure and had a big crash. But other than that, a lack of passing persisted throughout the field. A late change in the aero and mechanical package by IndyCar meant cars had a tough time drafting and making a second groove in the turns. Helio Castroneves, who was recently (six weeks prior) acquitted of charges on tax fraud. Talk about a turn of fate. It was Helio's third Indianapolis 500 win.


Helio's third fence climb at Indy (Photo: Autoweek)


11) 2003 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Gil de Ferran

Some crazy action and unpredictable parity bestowed the 2003 Indianapolis 500, with all around good guy Gil de Ferran winning his first and only Indianapolis 500. The rookies in the show were memorizing: Dan Wheldon (who would flip his car in the race), Tony Renna, and Scott Dixon (who foolishly crashed under yellow) all stood out.


Wheldon had a rough introduction to Indianapolis (Photo: IndyCar Media)


10) 2004 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Buddy Rice

I mean, I wasn't wild about Buddy Rice winning an Indianapolis 500. I mean, seriously, Buddy Rice? The guy shouldn't even have been in the seat. That was Kenny Brack's seat until that absolutely devastating crash at Texas in the finale in 2003. But Rice took over, won the pole, and had some thrilling overtakes on his way to winning his first race. Still, the best part of the race was some absolutely crazy action on the restarts. Tomas Scheckter was a human highlight reel with some of his passes. I thoroughly enjoyed this race, which was delayed, interrupted, and and finished by rain.


Buddy Rice Coming Across The Line To Win The 2004 Indy 500 [3405x2266]
Buddy Rice is one of two drivers on this list to win the
Indy 500 outside of The Big Three teams (Photo: AP)


9) 2011 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dan Wheldon

Don't get me wrong, the finish to this was an instant classic Indianapolis 500 moment. Coming to the finish, JR Hildebrand played the strategy right and was one lap away from winning the 500. Coming into the final turn, he failed to pass Charlie Kimball correctly and hit the wall. Dan Wheldon passed him and won the race, his second Indy 500 after only leading one lap. But had it not been for the finish and the one-and-done two-wide restarts introduced for 2011 (and only 2011), the race was pretty boring. Restarts were amazing, the finish was amazing, but the race wasn't all that great.



That moment Hildebrand threw it away (Photo: NY Times)


8) 2007 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dario Franchitti

This race was an absolute doozy. With rain interrupting the race right after the race was official (past 100 laps), many people thought the race was over and the track was lost. Unfortunately for Tony Kanaan, who was leading at the time, the track would dry and they would continue to race. The thrill of this race was that despite some 90 laps to go (officially), teams and drivers knew more rain was coming in 45 minutes, meaning that drivers really had to push as if there was really 30 laps to go. We saw action all over the field and some thrilling restarts. In separate restarts, Jeff Simmons and Helio Castroneves were both very close to hitting the pit attenuator. On the final restart, Marco Andretti pushed the envelope and got hooked by Dan Wheldon, causing the young Andretti to flip his car. Then the rain would fall, and it would be Dario Franchitti collecting his first Indianapolis 500 win.


Dario crosses the line in a soaked track (Photo: IndyCar Media)


7) 2008 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Scott Dixon

What a thrilling race the 2008 Indianapolis 500 was. With the Champ Car contingent coming over to the IndyCar Series after the merger, a plethora of rookies flooded the field. The race had plenty of drama. The two biggest plot twists were a crash involving Tony Kanaan and Sarah Fisher, in which Kanaan lost control after an aggressive move from teammate Marco Andretti. Kanaan was furious. Later on in the race, Danica Patrick collided with Ryan Briscoe in the pits, and both drivers were knocked out. Danica stormed down the pits, as she wanted to have a word with Briscoe, but security ushered her away. The most thrilling moment of the race was an absolutely stunning overtake on Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter by Vitor Meira. The pass was a textbook definition of shooting the gap. Meira was thrilling all day. Many restarts were spectacular as well. Overall, a great race to watch.


It was a good day for Chip Ganassi, especially Dixon (left) (Photo: AP)


6) 2012 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dario Franchitti

With the introduction of the new Dallara DW-12 came a new era of racing at Indianapolis. No longer were leaders able to run away with the lead with no opposition. Massive drafting meant the cars were able to pack up and continually pass each other. With this came tons of passing and some thrilling restarts. Despite Dario Franchitti being hit in the pits early on, he came back to the front had an epic battle with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and unlikely protagonist Takuma Sato. As the laps trickled down, it was apparent that whoever would win had to put themselves in the right position to win. For Sato, he chose turn one on the final lap to make an attempt on Dario Franchitti for the win. Dario gave him almost no room, they barely touched, but it was enough to send Sato into the wall. Dario would win his third and final Indy 500.


An epic finish between Franchitti and Sato (Photo: WTOP)


5) 2010 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dario Franchitti

The race was all-around great. After a less than stellar show in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, a change in components meant a lot more passing happened, especially in the turns. A lot of two-wide action occurred in the turns and it was thrilling. Late cautions jumbled the strategy, meaning some cars stayed out and were good on fuel and others were rolling the dice and playing it very cautious on the fuel strategy. Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon managed to extend their run and were coming to the white flag. Dario was starting to crawl to the line, while Wheldon had saved enough to go full out. But, before we could see the conclusion, which reminded me of the 100th Indianapolis 500, an absolutely massive crash occurred in turn three. Mike Conway flew over the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had just run out fuel, and hit the catch fencing. Thank god he was okay. Overall, it was an epic race.


Start of the 2010 Indy 500 (Photo: Autoblog)


4) 2015 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Juan Pablo Montoya

With the introduction of aero kits, the DW-12 racing slightly changed. While drafting was still important, no longer was there huge gaggles of cars inseparably drafting each other. Now, small packs of cars could separate from the larger groups. Still, plenty of action was to be found, including an absolutely awesome last 40 laps of the race. Lots of edgy passes, blocking, gap shooting, and side by side action in the turns was epic. Juan Pablo Montoya, who had to charge through the field, clearly had the best car on held of Will Power for the win.


Montoya holds off Power for the win (Photo: IndyCar Media)


3) 2013 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Tony Kanaan

In one of the more emotional wins we've seen in recent memory, the glutton for punishment at Indianapolis a.k.a. Tony Kanaan finally won an Indianapolis 500. This race was the 2010 race on steroids, with a record number of lead changes occuring. Kanaan may have won the race, but the driver of the race may have been rookie Carlos Munoz, who finished second in his first ever IndyCar race. The craziness of restarts and lead changes makes this one to remember.


The last restart where Kanaan held of Munoz, Andretti, and RHR (Photo: Getty Images)


2) 2016 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Alexander Rossi

In one of the most anticipated Indianapolis 500s in history because it was the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, IndyCar put on one hell of a show. Passing was abundant, action occurred everywhere, and the finish was absolutely insane. It was another finish where no matter how many times I've seen it or even though I know what the result is, I still get an elevated heart rate. In the closing stages of the race, everyone had to pit once more, except Alexander Rossi who was rolling the dice. With everyone safe on fuel other than Rossi, the field was trying to catch the rookie who had almost a half-a-lap lead. Despite a charging field behind him, Rossi literally crawled to the finish line to win an absolutely thrilling race. It will definitely go down as a historical race.


Rossi celebrates after running out of fuel (Photo: IndyCar Media)


1) 2014 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay

My personal favorite Indianapolis 500 was the recent action packed race we saw in 2014. This race had a bit of everything. There were no yellows for so many laps, and the action was great for over 100 straight laps. After Charlie Kimball spun, all hell broke loose. Scott Dixon would crash a couple of laps later. On the next restart, a controversial incident happened between James Hinchcliffe and Ed Carpenter, knocking them both out. Next, Townsend Bell crashed. The final laps would be an epic battle between Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay would get Helio at the line in one of the best finishes we've ever seen. Ever now, my palms get a bit sweaty watching it in nervousness.


An epic finish between RHR and Helio (Photo: NY Times)



What has been your favorite Indy 500 since 2003? Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

101st Indianapolis 500 Grid

Here's some stats and personal headlines for each of the 33 drivers for the 101st Indianapolis 500 (all stats listed are each drivers stats at the Indianapolis 500 and not their career IndyCar stats):


33) James Davison 
#18 Dale Coyne Racing 

Prior starts - 2
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 316
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 16th

Synopsis - Davison will make a surprise start to the grid after replacing the injured Sebastien Bourdais.

James Davison, with Geico Sponsorship for race day (Photo: IndyCar Media)

32) Zach Veach 
#40 AJ Foyt Enterprises

Prior starts - 0
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 0
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - N/A

Synopsis - Veach is another testament to the strength of the Indy Lights Series, as he starts in his first Indianapolis 500.

Zach Veach (Photo: IndyCar Media)


31) Sebastian Saavedra 
#17 Juncos AFS Racing

Prior starts - 5
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 711
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 15th

Synopsis - In now six attempts at Indianapolis, Saavedra has been in the back two rows four times now. He's only finished once.

Sebastian Saavedra (Photo: IndyCar Media)


30) Buddy Lazier
#44 Lazier Partners Racing

Prior starts - 19
Wins - 1
Laps completed - 2,897
Top 5s - 5
Top 10s - 6
Laps Led - 70
Best Finish - 1st

Synopsis - Now in his fourth start with his team, Lazier Partners Racing, Lazier looks poised to have his best 500 in the DW12.

Buddy Lazier, who will likely add sponsors before race day (Photo: IndyCar Media)


29) Spencer Pigot
#11 Juncos Racing

Prior starts - 1
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 195
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 25th

Synopsis - The Mazda Road to Indy veteran takes a break from his usual duties with Ed Carpenter Racing to make his second Indy 500 start with new team Juncos Racing.

Spencer Pigot (Photo: IndyCar Media)


28) Pippa Mann
#63 Dale Coyne Racing

Prior starts - 5
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 833
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 18th

Synopsis - The now Indianapolis 500 veteran has yet to put a complete race together. Despite finishing all but one race, Mann as yet to do better than 18th.

Pippa Mann (Photo: IndyCar Media)


27) Jack Harvey
#50 Andretti Autosport - Michael Shank Racing

Prior starts - 0
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 0
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - N/A

Synopsis - The standout from Indy Lights, who could not get a deal together in 2016, will make his IndyCar debut on Sunday. This is also Michael Shank's first Indy 500 as an owner.

Jack Harvey (Photo: IndyCar Media)


26) Conor Daly
#4 AJ Foyt Enterprises

Prior starts - 3
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 313
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 22nd

Synopsis - Conor debuted at Indy with Foyt in 2013, which did not go well. His next two starts at Indy did not go well either. Can he put it together this time around?

Conor Daly (Photo: IndyCar Media)


25) Gabby Chaves
#88 Harding Racing

Prior starts - 2
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 399
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 16th

Synopsis - Mr. Consistent joins new team Harding Racing for their first Indianapolis 500. In his two prior runs at Indianapolis, he was consistent, but not a factor in the race.

Gabby Chaves (Photo: IndyCar Media)


24) Carlos Munoz
#14 AJ Foyt Enterprises

Prior starts - 4
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 800
Top 5s - 3
Top 10s - 3
Laps Led - 25
Best Finish - 2nd (x2)

Synopsis - Munoz, who has proven to be an absolute boss at Indianapolis, is looking for that elusive win. Two second place finishes and another fourth place finish has proven Munoz as a huge threat at the track.

Carlos Munoz (Photo: IndyCar Media)


23) Simon Pagenaud
#1 Team Penske

Prior starts - 5
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 999
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 2
Laps Led - 35
Best Finish - 8th

Synopsis - The defending champion is looking to bounce back after two tough Indianapolis 500s with Team Penske. He is the lowest qualifying Penske driver.

Simon Pagenaud (Photo: IndyCar Media)


22) Josef Newgarden
#2 Team Penske

Prior starts - 5
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 908
Top 5s - 1
Top 10s - 2
Laps Led - 14
Best Finish - 3rd

Synopsis - After struggling early on in his career, Josef Newgarden has started to figure Indianapolis out. Despite a crash early on in the week, Newgarden managed to outqualify Pagenaud. Look for Newgarden to be strong in the race.

Josef Newgarden (Photo: IndyCar Media)


21) Sage Karam
#24 Dreyer and Reinbold - Kingdom Racing

Prior starts - 3
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 293
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 1
Laps Led - 2
Best Finish - 8th

Synopsis - Karam always figures to be a factor on race day, but if he can't finish, it won't matter. The youngest driver in the field is his own worst enemy. Can he stay out of trouble for 500 miles?

Sage Karam (Photo: IndyCar Media)


20) Jay Howard
#77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Prior starts - 1
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 60
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 30th

Synopsis - Howard makes his return to the 500 after not racing since 2011. He is also driving for Tony Stewart.

Jay Howard (Photo: IndyCar Media)


19) Helio Castroneves
#3 Team Penske

Prior starts - 16
Wins - 3
Laps completed - 3,054
Top 5s - 7
Top 10s - 13
Laps Led - 296
Best Finish - 1st (x3)

Synopsis - Castroneves will make attempt number eight at becoming the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500s. Castroneves is always up front at Indy, but starts lower than he ever has before.

Helio Castroneves (Photo: IndyCar Media)


18) Juan Pablo Montoya
#22 Team Penske

Prior starts - 4
Wins - 2
Laps completed - 663
Top 5s - 3
Top 10s - 3
Laps Led - 192
Best Finish - 1st (x2)

Synopsis - Montoya, who finished in 33rd last year, will want to get back on track, because he three other results were 1st, 4th, and 1st. Montoya has no races left after Indianapolis.

Juan Pablo Montoya (Photo: IndyCar Media)


17) James Hinchcliffe
#7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Prior starts - 5
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 873
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 2
Laps Led - 53
Best Finish - 6th

Synopsis - Last year's pole sitter is way back in the field this year. In past races, James Hinchcliffe has been solid in the beginning but faded towards the end. He will need to charge through the field this year.

James Hinchcliffe (Photo: IndyCar Media)


16) Charlie Kimball
#83 Chip Ganassi Racing

Prior starts - 6
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 1,148
Top 5s - 2
Top 10s - 4
Laps Led - 13
Best Finish - 3rd

Synopsis - Charlie Kimball can be sneaky good at Indianapolis, but can he avoid the troubles that plague him at many of the other tracks?

Charlie Kimball (Photo: IndyCar Media)


15) Max Chilton
#8 Chip Ganassi Racing

Prior starts - 1
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 200
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - 15th

Synopsis - Chilton has been plenty fast in speed week and raised some eyebrows in qualifying, but can he put together a solid race where moves up through the field?

Max Chilton (Photo: IndyCar Media)


14) Graham Rahal
#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Prior starts - 9
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 1,328
Top 5s - 2
Top 10s - 2
Laps Led - 6
Best Finish - 3rd

Synopsis - Rahal is probably tired of getting reminded of his dad's win from 1986. Can Graham join him? He seems confident in his race pace and Hondas have been fast, so it is not out of the question.

Graham Rahal (Photo: IndyCar Media)


13) Mikhail Aleshin
#7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports - Marotti Racing

Prior starts - 2
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 324
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 1
Best Finish - 21st

Synopsis - Despite being fast in the past at Indianapolis, Aleshin has struggled to put together a complete race. Aleshin needs a good race to get his season back on track.

Mikhail Aleshin (Photo: IndyCar Media)


12) Oriol Servia
#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Prior starts - 8
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 1,410
Top 5s - 1
Top 10s - 2
Laps Led - 18
Best Finish - 4th

Synopsis - Servia, who is not the only Spaniard in the field this year, is consistent, but has not cracked the top-ten since 2012.

Oriol Servia (Photo: IndyCar Media)


11) Ed Jones
#19 Dale Coyne Racing

Prior starts - 0
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 0
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - N/A

Synopsis - The major darkhorse of the field so far is rookie Ed Jones, who doesn't carry the flash or natural charisma that we've seen from other rookies. However, he quietly goes about his business and is bad fast. Can he be calm and handle the rookie adversities that occurs in the 500?

Ed Jones (Photo: IndyCar Media)


10) Ryan Hunter-Reay
#28 Andretti Autosport

Prior starts - 9
Wins - 1
Laps completed - 1,535
Top 5s - 2
Top 10s - 3
Laps Led - 134
Best Finish - 1st

Synopsis - The driver with the best chance at wining outside of the Fast Nine is 2014 Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has been incredibly fast in the DW12 era at Indianapolis.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Photo: IndyCar Media)


9) Will Power
#12 Team Penske

Prior starts - 9
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 1,678
Top 5s - 2
Top 10s - 5
Laps Led - 74
Best Finish - 2nd

Synopsis - Will Power is deceptively good at Indianapolis, and it was further proven when he was the only Team Penske driver to qualify in the Fast Nine.

Will Power (Photo: IndyCar Media)


8) Marco Andretti
#27 Andretti Autosport

Prior starts - 11
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 2,005
Top 5s - 5
Top 10s - 7
Laps Led - 141
Best Finish - 2nd

Synopsis - Another year, another chance at breaking the Andretti Curse. Andretti is fast each year at Indianapolis, but Marco needs to limit the one or two mistakes that always seems to plague him.

Marco Andretti (Photo: IndyCar Media)


7) Tony Kanaan
#10 Chip Ganassi Racing

Prior starts - 15
Wins - 1
Laps completed - 2,565
Top 5s - 7
Top 10s - 8
Laps Led - 305
Best Finish - 1st

Synopsis - Kanaan, who did finish in the top-ten last year, has yet to be his normal dominate self that we are accustomed to when driving for Chip Ganassi.

Tony Kanaan (Photo: IndyCar Media)


6) JR Hildebrand
#21 Ed Carpenter Racing

Prior starts - 6
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 1,003
Top 5s - 1
Top 10s - 4
Laps Led - 11
Best Finish - 2nd

Synopsis - Hildebrand, who is doing everything he can to change his image as the guy who crashed from the lead with one turn to go, is in a solid position to make an impact in the race.

JR Hildebrand (Photo: IndyCar Media)


5) Fernando Alonso
#29 McLaren Honda Andretti Autosport

Prior starts - 0
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 0
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 0
Best Finish - N/A

Synopsis - The most impressive driver so far, and the one with the most attention on him, is two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso. Given his great equipment and his tremendous abilities, Alonso is in a good position to contend, but can he keep the mistakes to a minimum in the race?

Fernando Alonso (Photo: IndyCar Media)


4) Takuma Sato
#26 Andretti Autosport

Prior starts - 7
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 1,180
Top 5s - 0
Top 10s - 0
Laps Led - 31
Best Finish - 13th (x2)

Synopsis - With an incredible starting position, Sato will be looking looking to do what he hasn't been able to do at Indy so far: finish in the top-ten. This from the same guy who was a couple turns away from at least a photo finish with Dario Franchitti in 2012. He has been very surprising so far this month.

Takuma Sato, who will be carrying different colors on race day (Photo: IndyCar Media)


3) Alexander Rossi
#98 Andretti-Herta Autosport

Prior starts - 1
Wins - 1
Laps completed - 200
Top 5s - 1
Top 10s - 1
Laps Led - 14
Best Finish - 1st

Synopsis - Rossi will need to do a lot to keep batting 1.000 at Indianapolis. Coming off of an epic win last season in the 100th 500, he should be a force to win this race too. Can he get some of the luck he got last year to match his brute force?

Alexander Rossi (Photo: IndyCar Media)


2) Ed Carpenter
#20 Ed Carpenter Racing

Prior starts - 13
Wins - 0
Laps completed - 2,207
Top 5s - 1
Top 10s - 3
Laps Led - 69
Best Finish - 5th

Synopsis - Carpenter is a natural at Indianapolis and always has a good first half of the race, but can he put himself in a position to win late when it counts?

Ed Carpenter (Photo: IndyCar Media)


1) Scott Dixon
#9 Chip Ganassi Racing

Prior starts - 14
Wins - 1
Laps completed - 2,617
Top 5s - 6
Top 10s - 10
Laps Led - 434
Best Finish - 1st

Synopsis - The easy favorite heading into the race is Scott Dixon. An unreal qualifying effort translates well into race pace, but as we have seen in the past, pole sitters have faded midway through the race. Can Dixon avoid this?

Scott Dixon, who will be carrying different colors on race day (Photo: IndyCar Media)


MILESTONES

- With his start, Buddy Lazier moves into 9th on the all-time Indianapolis 500 starts list with 20 starts.

- Alexander Rossi is trying to become the second driver to win two Indianapolis 500s in his first two starts (Helio Castroneves 2001, 2002).

- Helio Castroneves is trying to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears as four-time winners at the Indianapolis 500. If he did it, he would be the first non-American to accomplish it.

- Juan Pablo Montoya will try to become one of nine drivers to win three or more Indianapolis 500s.

- Helio Castroneves needs 120 laps to move into third on the all-time laps completed last at Indianapolis, surpassing Gordon Johnock and Al Unser Jr.

- With a top-five finish, both Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves can move into a tie for fifth all-time in Indianapolis 500 history with eight top-fives. They would tie with Gordon Johncock.

- With a top-ten, Scott Dixon will move into a tie for fifth all-time in Indianapolis 500 history with eleven top-tens. He would tie Mario Andretti and Gordon Johncock.

- Scott Dixon (realistically) can climb to fifth all-time in laps led at Indianapolis if he leads 75 or more laps.

- Marco Andretti is fifth all-time at Indianapolis of most laps led without a win at Indianapolis with 141.

- Ed Carpenter is sixth all-time at Indianapolis of most laps completed without a win at Indianapolis with 2,207.

- With the addition of the four rookies, 763 drivers have now raced at Indianapolis.



Time for the 101st.

-Matthew Hickey

Monday, May 22, 2017

Guest Blog (Neely): New School Lazier

In a new era at Indy, the Lazier family keeps it old school. Gone are the days of last minute deals and rides put together on bump day. Paul Diatlovich is no longer mortgaging his house to get Jimmy Kite a qualifying effort. The new era of Indy as gotten rid of what used to be buzz and excitement up until the gun went off. Indy now requires more time and money than ever before, making last minute deals obsolete unless you are Buddy Lazier.

For the past few years, we have seen Lazier Partners Racing show up underfunded and short on time. It seems every year is a question mark until they get on track. While the effort takes months to build up, it all comes together at the last minute. Year after year, I sit and wait and watch the Lazier garage waiting for activity to build and some life be shown; the crew members love racing and are friends of the family. Only a few of the crew are paid, and the rest volunteer their time to try and give Buddy the best car they can in a short amount of time. Never before has the team went out before Thursday and that is for a shakedown of the car at best. They are the only team who has to run the same engine in practice and qualifying as they do during the race. They also purchase fewer tires than any team meaning fewer laps can be run.

When Indy was the whole month, there would often be programs who would wait until the second week of practice to run the car, but that is no longer the case with the shortened month. This has made it even harder on the teams to put together a short program. This year there was an added wrinkle for the team. Over the offseason, parts of the car came up missing along with the steering wheel. This meant the team had to muster up the funds to purchase new aero kit pieces and build a new steering wheel that is customized for a drivers liking. This is not an easy task for a team that puts the car together during the week of practice. Nevertheless, Lazier Partners Racing is here and will do everything they can to be good on race day.

Buddy Lazier 2017 (Photo: IndyCar Media)

Buddy was asked if this will just be a start and park to get 33 cars for the start of the race. His response was &quote, "I don't come to Indy to do that." The Lazier family exemplifies what the 500 is all about. The love for the speedway runs deep in the family with Bob Lazier (father) and Buddy owning the team and brother Jaques Lazier usually hanging around. They have all run the 500 before and know what it means to make the field. It means you have a chance no matter how small to win the biggest race in the world and become part of history.

For Buddy, if he won again it would be his second, putting him on a short list of drivers who have done the same. An outside shot, yes, but nevertheless a shot and that is all any driver can ask. He may not have the same chance to win as others, but I thank Buddy and everyone involved with this team for their effort because this is what Indy is about, the love of the speedway.


-Jake Neely
@indycarfan25

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wait, New Teams?

My longstanding biggest critique of IndyCar ever since the introduction of the DW12 is the utter lack of new teams in the series. I mean think about it, 15 of the 33 cars in this year's Indianapolis 500 comes from three teams. If, god forbid, one of those three teams went under, there would be no way a field of 33 would be met.

Yes, there are outside factors that have prevented a couple of new teams from entering the series, like the ridiculous cost of aero kits and a lack of engines provided from Chevrolet and Honda (a third manufacturer would be great) has prevented new teams. But with the introduction of a new chassis next year with no more aero kits (aka a lot less money will be needed) and momentum gaining in IndyCar, a plethora of new teams could be seen on the IndyCar grid on a regular basis. Here's a rundown of the potential teams:


Lazier Partners Racing
The veteran team on this list is Lazier Partners Racing, a family operated team started by 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier and his dad and former racer Bob Lazier. Starting in 2013, Lazier would be a fixture during the Month of May for the next several years. A lack of funding has prevented the team from running a full week of practice, which hampers them from making a serious run at strong performance. They did not qualify in 2015, but have made the field the other three seasons. If the team finds more funding, an expansion of their calendar could be coming. The team makes more strides every year, and that will lead to more success.



Juncos Racing
The longtime Mazda Road to Indy team has expanded to IndyCar in the form of a two car effort in the Indianapolis 500. With a brand new race shop, cars, equipment, and crew, the team is a serious contender to be on the grid on a full-time basis in the future.



Harding Racing
Out of nowhere, Mike Harding of the Harding Group has formed a new team in IndyCar and have enlisted Gabby Chaves as their driver for their first race at Indianapolis. Now, the team announced today that they will be running at Texas and Pocono. There is no reason to think they won't be a full-time entry in the next couple of years.


The new Harding Racing car (Photo: IndyCar Media)

Carlin Racing
Trevor Carlin, the owner of Carlin Racing, one of the best feeder series teams in the world, has continued to express interest in moving up to IndyCar. Plans to be the equipment from the defunct KV Racing outfit fell through, and so now Carlin is playing the waiting game. In an interview with Motorsport.com, Carlin said that he is pursuing the right sponsors to make it happen for a long time and not just a one season effort. With someone who handles his business professionally, I love that he is doing it the right way. It may take a couple of years, but when they do join the grid, it will have a positive impact on the car count and the competitive levels of the field.



Steinbrenner Racing
George Steinbrenner IV, as in Steinbrenner family that owns the New York Yankees, has made it clear that he is going to be fielding a team in the IndyCar Series in the near future. He has also made it clear that he wants to do it with Colton Herta. Steinbrenner has partnered with Michael Andretti in the Indy Lights Series to field young Herta. A lot of things still have to happen for them to be on the grid, but a man like Steinbrenner will make it happen.



McLaren
The most shocking driver announcement in recent memory was McLaren announcing not only their return to IndyCar, but that driver Fernando Alonso would be in their car. I think the best news about the whole situation was that McLaren, a world-renowned team and car manufacturer, would be a fixture at Indianapolis every year and potentially the IndyCar grid full-time.


The new McLaren IndyCar (Photo: IndyCar Media)

Belardi Auto Racing
One of the small teams of the Indy Lights grid has grown over the years into a serious championship contender each season, and Brian Belardi, the owner, has made it clear that he would love to be in IndyCar someday, but it would likely not be anytime soon without major funding.



Team Pelfrey
With their expansion into Indy Lights, the former IRL team and Pro Mazda giants Team Pelfrey make logical sense to grow into the IndyCar Series at some point. They will likely look to solidify their Indy Lights program before moving up to IndyCar.



Michael Shank Racing
The veteran team in endurance racing founded by former driver Michael Shank has finally breached his way into IndyCar in the form of a dual effort with Andretti Autosport and driver Jack Harvey. This is Shank's first taste of IndyCar, though he attempted to join the series several years ago. He purchased a DW12 but was unable to secure an engine. Don't count them out in the future.



Marotti Racing
With continued efforts of trying to field their own car failing, Marotti Racing has only been able to be an associate team to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the last two Indianapolis 500s. Last year it was Oriol Servia, this year Mikhail Aleshin. Can the team secure the funding, resources, and talent to make their own way onto the grid.



I have not had more of a sense of optimism about new teams in IndyCar. We haven't had fresh blood in so long. Dale Coyne Racing is the only team left in IndyCar that came from the merger from the Champ Car Series. We have seen so many teams leave IndyCar since then. Is there hope?!


Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey