Motorsport.com's David Malsher (DM) and Nick DeGroot (NDG) preview the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Co-author: David Malsher, US Editor
Motorsport.com's US editors are on site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and have been since on-track action began at the Speedway two weeks ago. Below, they take a look at all 33 starters and give their opinion on how each will fare in the 500 mile race today.
Pos.# Driver Team
|1||5||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt (H)|
DM: Hinch has had a tendency to live for the moment in this race but has a wiser head on his shoulders now and can balance aggression with smarts to complete his fairytale month of May.
|NDG: He's got a fast car, the pole and the perfect comeback story to boot. If Hinch can keep sharp for 500 miles, I see no reason why he can't win this race.
|2||21||Josef Newgarden||Carpenter (C)|
|DM: Newgarden has impressed at IMS since his first 500 back in 2012, yet has never finished higher than ninth. But this Month he has looked fast in all conditions and with all setups.||NDG: Newgarden has found his groove since winning for the first time last year. He will translate this front row starting position into a strong result with winning a definite possibility.|
|3||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti (H)|
|DM: As a former Indy 500 winner, RHR knows what it takes to not only survive to the final stint, but then stick the knife between his teeth and go for it. A very strong contender today.||NDG: Hunter-Reay has quickly established himself as an Indy ace and now that he once again has a capable car under him, RHR will be a threat.|
|4||29||Townsend Bell||Andretti (H)|
|DM: Bell is always a strong Indy “one-off” but this year has the car to match. With Craig Hampson as his race engineer, he’s got someone who can adapt the car to changing track conditions.||NDG: Overlooked by many since he isn't a regular name, but this is Bell's best shot yet at winning the race. Don't expect the veteran to squander it.|
|5||26||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti (H)|
|DM: Carlos shocked everyone by starting and finishing second in his rookie year here in 2013. Sometimes his bravery catches him out, but today it could be exactly what’s required.
|NDG: His sensational 2013 drive showed us what he can do here. But his aggression could also prove to be his detriment, if not applied wisely.|
|6||12||Will Power||Penske (C)|
|DM: Power has been quick at IMS ever since he joined Penske – no surprise there – but it took until last year to have a trouble-free run, at which point he finished a close second. He should be strong.
|NDG: After coming so close last year, Power is hungry and although the Penske quartet don't look nearly as strong this time around, they're still just as formidable.|
|7||7||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt (H)|
|DM: Aleshin is as brave as they come; his wild qualifying laps proved that. But does he know when to hang back and not go for 50/50 chances? We’ll find out soon.
|NDG: The Mad Russian has stolen the spotlight with the fearless line he's been taking during practice and qualifying. If he can keep it out of the wall, he will be a factor.|
|8||22||Simon Pagenaud||Penske (C)|
|DM: The Verizon IndyCar Series’ runaway points leader appeared to be the strongest of the Penske drivers here last year, but made a small error. He’s now almost flawless. Watch out.
|NDG: Like Power, the points leader has had a quiet month, but momentum is certainly on his side. What makes him dangerous? He's no longer making mistakes...|
|9||3||Helio Castroneves||Penske (C)|
|DM: One of the sentimental favorites here, Helio has appeared to struggle all month, but changing track conditions could work in the favor of a guy with 15 years of experience here…
|NDG: Helio is chasing history and it would be foolish to discount him. What he lacks in the car, he'll make up for in sheer determination.|
|10||77||Oriol Servia||Schmidt (H)|
|DM: Like Bell, Servia is a very reliable source of fine drives at IMS and this is the best car he’s had since he put Newman/Haas on the front row in 2011.
|NDG: Servia is always a safe choice at IMS. A smooth driver who makes few mistakes.|
|11||98||Alexander Rossi||Andretti-Herta (H)|
|DM: Rossi has adapted well to IMS and is clear favorite to earn Rookie of the Year honors. How much he achieves overall depends on how quickly he adapts to a changing track.
|NDG: The face of the 2016 rookie class. With so little oval experience, it would be quite an upset to see him win, but he's almost expected to capture ROTY honors.|
|12||14||Takuma Sato||Foyt (H)|
|DM: Sato will forever be remembered as the guy who almost grabbed the 2012 win from Dario Franchitti. Clearly the fastest Foyt car all month, a Top 10 should be possible.
|NDG: Sato has an entire nation cheering him on and despite his stellar qualifying job, all three Foyt cars are a bit off the competition.|
|13||9||Scott Dixon||Ganassi (C)|
|DM: Dixon is probably a guy you want in your team in all circumstances and should nothing untoward happen, expect him to be fighting for victory in the final stint.
|NDG: Ganassi as a whole has struggled this month, but if anyone can carry a car on their shoulders, it would be the reigning series champion.|
|14||27||Marco Andretti||Andretti (H)|
|DM: Andretti puts so much pressure on himself at this venue but usually excels. He was baffled by some of his issues in practice, but there’s no way he’ll stay anonymous once the green flag drops.
|NDG: Marco is determined as ever to get the Andretti name back in the winner's circle here and if his past performances are to be believed, he will claw his way to the front.|
|15||6||J.R. Hildebrand||Carpenter (C)|
|DM: Very much a dark horse, Hildebrand has looked very strong in race setup during practice, and has learned how to keep a cool head. A top-three finish is well within his grasp.
|NDG: Hildebrand is constantly reminded of what could have been in 2011. Since then, he's matured into a reliable wheelman who would love nothing more than to finally put his face on the trophy and put that day behind him.|
|16||42||Charlie Kimball||Ganassi (C)|
|DM: Kimball’s drive to third last year was superb. He’s always been hard as nails in wheel-to-wheel situations, and attentive to the instructions of his race engineer.||NDG: Kimball is easily overlooked in favor of his teammates Kanaan and Dixon, but he just about won this thing last year. He may just sneak up on everyone once again.|
|17||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||Penske (C)|
|DM: Never underestimate Montoya. He knows exactly what he needs from his car, race engineer Brian Campe is very switched on, and JPM is supremely aggressive.
|NDG: Montoya is a force to be reckoned with, no matter where he starts, so don't let his starting position discourage you – especially after what we saw him do in 2015.|
|18||10||Tony Kanaan||Ganassi (C)|
|DM: The 2013 winner struggled in qualifying, but seemed able to track and pass anyone when running a race setup. This writer’s favorite for victory.
|NDG: Kanaan lives for the Indy 500. Even if the car isn't quite there, he, like Dixon, will find a way to the front.|
|19||11||Sébastien Bourdais||KVSH (C)|
|DM: Seb blows hot and cold on ovals, despite being one of the most talented drivers out there. KV Racing has been plagued with handling issues most of the month. Have they been cured in time?
|NDG: Bourdais needs more speed, but he's out of time. He's capable, but will likely have a tough go of it today.|
|20||20||Ed Carpenter||Carpenter (C)|
|DM: The local team-owner’s reputation as an oval specialist has taken a knock over the past 18 months, as Newgarden has held the upper hand. Keeping a cool head will be key for Ed.
|NDG: Carpenter is a proven talent at Indianapolis, but after crashing out in both 2014 and 2015, the native Hoosier needs Lady Luck to be on his side.|
|21||19||Gabby Chaves||Coyne (H)|
|DM: The 2014 Indy Lights champion had several strong days when running his race setup, and the IndyCar sophomore is capable of delivering Dale Coyne a strong top 10 finish.
|NDG: He was solid in his debut last year and all the Coyne cars seem to have brought something stronger to this race. A top 10 may not be out of his reach.|
|22||8||Max Chilton||Ganassi (C)|
|DM: The ex-F1 driver seemed blasé about his IndyCar career until he got to IMS, where his enthusiasm has been lit. Caution would serve him well following his crash.
|NDG: He's already got that first wreck out of the way, so the ex-F1 driver will likely be more cautious come race time. Look for him to put in a solid effort.|
|23||24||Sage Karam||Dreyer & Reinbold (C)|
|DM: Sage has a Kanaan-like aggression that can fall either side of the fine line between smart and foolhardy. But there’s no doubting his pace.
|NDG: Sage is getting a third chance. But it will be hard for a one-off driver in a one-off team to take the fight to the behemoths of the sport.|
|24||18||Conor Daly||Coyne (H)|
|DM: Conor Daly has done nothing but impress over the past 18 months, and deserves this full-time ride. If he’s happy with the handling of his car, he will move forward swiftly.
|NDG: Daly didn't even get to take the green flag last year. He comes here hungry, fully sponsored and in a Coyne car that is actually decent. He might surprise a few people.|
|25||63||Pippa Mann||Coyne (H)|
|DM: So long as two shunts in one week haven’t knocked her confidence, Mann can definitely beat her best finish ever (20th) today.
|NDG: Pippa has had a rough week with two accidents, one during Carb Day. If she can have an uneventful race, that might just be a victory in itself.|
|26||15||Graham Rahal||Rahal (H)|
|DM: Aside from his worries over tire vibrations at the end of stints, Rahal is bullishly confident and believes his race setup is as good as anyone’s. And he’s always quick here on raceday.
|NDG: Coming from the back to the front has never been an issue for Graham. He may be starting 26th, but don't expect him to finish anyone near there.|
|27||61||Matthew Brabham||Murray-KVRT (C)|
|DM: Matt is one of the smartest of the new-gen racers in America, and also one of the most talented. But he isstill a rookie, so a top 15 finish would be a satisfactory result.
|NDG: The American-Australian is continuing a family tradition this year. Barring any rookie errors, a top 15 is a realistic goal.|
|28||88||Bryan Clauson||Coyne (H)|
|DM: Clauson has had a largely anonymous month, but that actually says a lot about how comfortable the sprint car ace is around here in his third attempt. It's time for his first finish.
|NDG: A favorite among the sprint racing crowd at IMS, hopefully Clauson can finally make it to the checkered flag in his third 500 start.|
|29||16||Spencer Pigot||Rahal (H)|
|DM: Pigot’s shunt in practice was a confidence-knocker, but otherwise everything said about Brabham applies to the reigning Lights champ.
|NDG: Pigot had the biggest shunt of the month (so far), which was not his fault. He's rebounded nicely and should put together a solid effort in the big show.|
|30||25||Stefan Wilson||KVRT (C)|
|DM: It would take a stony heart to not root for Wilson. He’s done a commendable job throughout practice, despite the emotional pressure, and he's mature enough to honor the family name.||NDG: Stefan comes to Indy as a sentimental favorite after the loss of his elder brother Justin last August. He'll keep the car clean and have a respectable debut.|
|31||41||Jack Hawksworth||Foyt (H)|
|DM: Hawksworth’s performances have appeared flaky this month, but has the talent and resilience to make it to the checkered flag.
|NDG: Hawksworth needs a strong run, but I don't think it's going to happen today.|
|32||4||Buddy Lazier||Lazier (C)|
|DM: The 1996 winner’s brave effort should be applauded, as the task of dipping into the IndyCar Series with a small team is tough at any venue, let alone Indy.
|NDG: Buddy's finishing position will have a lot to do with the attrition of the race, but regardless, it's good to see him still have a passion for Indy 20 years after he tasted the milk.|
|33||35||Alex Tagliani||Foyt (H)|
|DM: Tagliani has had an awful month, and unless he’s found some miracle cure or learned to work with Sato’s setup, the 2011 polesitter is likely to struggle again today.
|NDG: Bringing up the rear is a veteran. Tagliani wrecked in qualifying, but that was far from the beginning of his struggles. It might be a long day for the 2011 poleman.|