Friday , 22 June 2018

The 2016 Month of May Preview Pt 2: The 100th Indianapolis 500 and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis

In case you missed out on the first part of this two-part preview, be sure to click here to check out the first part.

Without any further ado, here are the expected runners and riders and their respective chances at both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and at the 100th Indianapolis 500:

  1. Juan Pablo Montoya – Team Penske Chevrolet – 2000, 2015 Winner

Montoya enters the Month of May as one of the men to beat given his form, his revered reputation at Indianapolis and on superspeedways in general. As the defending champion of the main event, it is almost certain that Montoya will feature towards the front. Even without an entirely clean race, he has shown that he can come from dead last to win the race. Slipping behind a little bit in the points after a couple of poor results (some of his own doing, some not-so) will make Montoya all the hungrier to secure two good results this May.

  1. Helio Castroneves – Team Penske Chevrolet – 2001, 2002, 2009 Winner – 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010 polesitter

Castroneves is the only driver in the field with a chance of joining the elite group of four-time winners of the Indy 500. However his form in terms of delivering race wins both at the Brickyard and within the IndyCar series has been patchy at best in recent years. He hasn’t won here in seven years and he hasn’t won at all since the middle of 2014, so he perhaps is not the outright favourite to win at either race this May. The Brazilian is perhaps past his best now, but he will still be in with a shout of winning – he came close in 2014 after all.

  1. James Hinchcliffe – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

Regardless of who you may support, if there is one driver who deserves to do well at Indianapolis given his recent experience here, it is James Hinchcliffe. He was concussed back in 2014 after being hit by a piece of debris in the Grand Prix, and he suffered that awful suspension failure last year, in which it is absolutely remarkable that he is racing here again a year on. A front-row starter in the past, Hinchcliffe may be able to fight towards the front, if the equipment allows him to.

  1. J.R. Hildebrand – Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – 2011 RotY

Hildebrand, who famously nearly won the 500 in 2011, will get a run with ECR at both the main event and the Grand Prix. He will likely be a bit race-rusty, but the talent is there for him to possibly feature towards the front at the end of the month.

  1. Mikhail Aleshin – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

The rapid Russian who is making his second appearance at the 500 is not likely to feature too much at the oval, but his road course experience may definitely come in handy at the Grand Prix. His vast success in the Formula Renault 3.5 series and the impressive speed he has shown may point towards a strong result or two.

  1. Max Chilton – Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – Rookie

Chilton is absolutely a driver to watch at Indianapolis. He has impressed Chip Ganassi with his speed so far in IndyCar and his road course experience and his apparent natural ability on the ovals means that Chilton will likely feature towards the front in one of, if not both of the two races this month. Remember that he took his only win of last year in Lights on an oval. However this is his first visit to the Brickyard in an IndyCar.

  1. Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – 2009 Winner – 2008, 2015 polesitter

Dixon won pole position here last year but faded away in the race, as the Penskes swarmed him. He has started his 2016 campaign uncharacteristically well, albeit hindered last time out at Barber through no fault of his own. With the Ganassi team firmly behind him and Chevrolet power, the 2009 winner will almost certainly feature once again this year.

  1. Tony Kanaan – Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – 2013 Winner – 2005 polesitter

The popular Brazilian has not quite had the pace of the younger Dixon during their time as team mates. However should Dixon face trouble in either race or should Kanaan decide to go a bit off-sequence, he may find himself in with a shout of fighting for the win. He won the fastest 500 in 2013, but wins have been sparse ever since.

  1. Sebastien Bourdais – KVSH Racing Chevrolet

Bourdais is traditionally a street and road course master but he broke that reputation last year with an emphatic-yet-controversial win at Iowa. He should feature towards the front at the Grand Prix should he have a clean weekend, and whilst his chances of a 500 win appear unlikely, he should not be completely ignored.

  1. Will Power – Team Penske Chevrolet

Power had a really positive May last year, and will be hoping to do even better this year. He won the Grand Prix commandingly and was just edged out by Montoya to show that he is now no slouch on the ovals. He has had a rough start to 2016 with illness side-lining him at St. Petersburg, but Power will likely be a man to watch over the month.

  1. Takuma Sato – A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda

Sato came close to winning the 2012 event, but he crashed out on the final lap. A repeat of such an opportunity will be tough, but to take A.J. Foyt to victory lane as an owner at the 100th running of the famous event would be something special. Sato took his only podium in F1 at Indianapolis’ road course, which ran on a different layout to the variation IndyCar uses.

  1. Graham Rahal – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Rahal is another guy to watch at Indianapolis. He will almost certainly feature at the Grand Prix, given his strong record on the road and street courses lately, and may well feature in the main event too. He has been able to drag his Honda-powered car into seemingly unthinkable places over the last year and a bit, could be follow in the footsteps of his father and win the biggest race in America?

  1. Spencer Pigot – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda – Rookie

Pigot will join Rahal for the two Indianapolis races, having previously ventured at St. Petersburg. This is a very good opportunity for the young American who certainly deserves more races than he is getting. He may well feature in the battle for Rookie of the Year honours.

  1. Sebastian Saavedra – AFS Racing Chevrolet

Saavedra traditionally has fared better on the road and street courses in his career (starting on pole for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis in fact) but will run the 500 with AFS. His chances of success are slim, but he will certainly be looking to impress.

  1. Conor Daly – Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Daly will be hoping to actually start the race this year, as his race was over before it had even begun last year. Crucially, he has a solid amount of experience around the speedway, and this will definitely help him.

  1. Luca Filippi – Dale Coyne Racing Honda – Rookie

Filippi will be an Indianapolis rookie as he makes his first start on the famous speedway. He has never run on a large oval before, so it will be interesting to see how the GP2 veteran adapts.

  1. Ed Carpenter – Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – 2013, 2014 polesitter

Carpenter steps into the 20 for the race in which he took back-to-back poles in back in 2013 and 2014. He has always gone well here but has not had the results. He is one to watch, as this will be one of his few outings this year.

  1. Josef Newgarden – Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Newgarden is looking for his first really big result this year, having not really featured that much this year bar his rostrum last time out. He has some quick team mates here, so he may want to learn from them both. However there is no reason as to why Newgarden should not be fighting towards the front at some point.

  1. Simon Pagenaud – Team Penske Chevrolet

The man in form – somewhat controversially is Frenchman Pagenaud. Two wins and two second places have seen him have the best start to an IndyCar season since Power back in 2013. He won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and given recent form, it would simply be ridiculous to not have him as one of the favourites for the victory at both races this month.

  1. Sage Karam – Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Chevrolet

Impressive youngster Karam makes a one-off appearance this season with a part-time team. He doesn’t have the backing and support of a big team this time so it will be very tough for him but it will be intriguing to see what he can do with a small team.

  1. Stefan Wilson – KVSH Racing Chevrolet – Rookie

A popular entry this year will be Stefan Wilson – younger brother of the late, great Justin Wilson. Wilson has started alongside his brother before, at Baltimore in 2013, but on this occasion he will be racing in honour of his brother, even sporting his colours on his helmet and his racing number from last year in tribute. It will be tough for Wilson to do well, but everybody will be hoping that he can do his brother proud.

  1. Carlos Munoz – Andretti Autosport Honda – 2013 RotY

Munoz went exceptionally well here in his first ever IndyCar race back in 2013, but has been outshone by others in recent years. It would be silly to rule him out of contention immediately, but his form is hardly stellar and Andretti have had a dire start to the 2016 campaign so far. His chances look slim.

  1. Marco Andretti – Andretti Autosport Honda – 2006 RotY

Andretti has had a completely hopeless start to the year, and a lot of it has not been his fault. His luck must change soon, and perhaps breaking the famous Andretti Curse may be the way to kickstart his year. He has been vocal about Chevrolet sandbagging in a test earlier in the year, in which Andretti was quickest.

  1. Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport Honda – 2014 Winner – 2008 RotY

2014 winner Hunter-Reay has looked the most comfortable of the Andretti quartet this year, and took a podium at St. Petersburg. Hunter-Reay is almost always there or thereabouts if he is given even a sniff of a chance, so he cannot be ruled it of a decent result this month.

  1. Townsend Bell – Andretti Autosport Honda

Joining Andretti for the 500 is veteran Townsend Bell. This will be his tenth attempt at the famous race, in which he has not finished higher than fourth in the past.

  1. Alex Tagliani – A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda – 2009 RotY – 2011 polesitter

Another veteran in the field will be Tagliani, who will drive in both races for A.J. Foyt. Tagliani has been out of a full-time seat for a while now, and is certainly past his peak, and hasn’t won an IndyCar race for a decade, so his chances of major success will be slim.

  1. Jack Hawksworth – A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda

Hawksworth fought very much at the front in 2014 at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He has yet to really recapture that sort of form since then, but he has shown some good speed at times. He could well feature again at either race if he has a good car, but it would be surprising if that is the case.

  1. Matthew Brabham – PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet – Rookie

Looking to become just the third third-generation driver to start the 500 is young Matthew Brabham, who will contest both races, as he looks to try and impress some of the full-time teams. The youngster appears pretty versatile, having stepped into multiple categories and looked competent in whatever he drove. He should settle in fine in an IndyCar.

  1. Pippa Mann – Dale Coyne Racing Honda

The popular Briton is all-but-confirmed as a third entry for Dale Coyne Racing. Mann prefers the oval courses to the road courses, and usually performs solidly if unspectacularly on them. She is unlikely to be in the mix at the front unless Coyne is able to pull off a strategy blinder as we have seen in the past.

  1. Oriol Servia – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

Another IndyCar veteran participating is Oriol Servia. His experience will be of major value to the team and especially to Aleshin. Servia has raced once this season already – in place of an unwell Power at St. Petersburg, and will make his first appearance with SPM at the Brickyard.

  1. Charlie Kimball – Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Kimball had arguably his strongest run last year at the Brickyard, and should he keep his nose clean, he may well feature again this year. He has not had a particularly exciting season to date: one ninth, one tenth, one 11th and one 12th place to his name. It would be surprising if he didn’t have a stronger result at one of the two Indianapolis races.

  1. Bryan Clauson – Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Honda

The 500 is one of 200 races Clauson is attempting to race at this year. He crashed out fairly early on last year, and is highly unlikely to feature at the front at all.

  1. Buddy Lazier – Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet – 1996 Winner

Winner of the chaotic 1996 event Lazier will make his annual one-off appearance at the 500. He is one of the drivers expected to struggle to qualify for the event, as two must be bumped. He is well and truly past his best now, and should he make the race, he will almost certainly struggle to make his way forward.

  1. Alexander Rossi – Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Honda – Rookie

Rossi will make his first appearance at the Brickyard this year. The prospect of tackling the fearsome oval must be terrifying yet exciting for the young American, and he will need to look to the vast experience from his Andretti team mates for tips and advice for the oval. However he should fare fairly well on the road course, as he performed so well on circuits similar to that in his GP2 career. However he must not let his Manor F1 reserve duties become a distraction what could be an important month for his career.

TBA. Katherine Legge – Grace Autosport Chevrolet

The all-female Grace Autosport team are hoping to make the 500, although their entry has not been formally confirmed yet. They appear to be lacking sufficient partners to make the field. In terms of driving, they have the experienced Katherine Legge behind the wheel, who has been performing really solidly in the WeatherTech Sportscar Series lately.

N.B. drivers marked in red will only be racing at the Indianapolis 500 in May, drivers marked in black will be racing at both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and at the Indianapolis 500.

About Craig Woollard

Craig Woollard is an avid motor racing fan and freelance journalist and writer. A mathematics graduate from the University of Essex in 2013, Woollard has ambitions to work within motor racing. He is a member of Autosport's academy programme. In his spare time, he listens to music, sim races, wears hats and drinks cranberry juice.

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