2012 Indianapolis 500 preview: America’s great race gets a new look

IndyCar

2011 Indianapolis 500 startThe Monaco Grand Prix is one of two great and historic races taking place on Sunday.

After the chequered flag falls in Monte-Carlo, 33 turbocharged IndyCars will assemble for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500.

There’s no denying the race lost some of its lustre during the dark days of the IRL-Champ Car split. But in recent years the series has tried to recapture some of that missing magic.

This year’s race marks the return of competition between engine manufacturers and has already produced the closest ever battle for pole position.

There’s plenty of interest for F1 fans having a look-in as well. Former F1 drivers Rubens Barrichello and Jean Alesi are making their first starts in the race which has been running for more than a century.

They’ll be competing with the likes of Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan to win the 500-mile classic.

New car, new engines

The field which assembles for this year’s race looks very different to that of 12 months ago. With new chassis and new engines, an unpredictable and spectacular race is in the offing.

The new Dallara DW12 IndyCar has already done service in four races but this will be its first appearance on an oval. The bulky rear bodywork may be of questionable aesthetic merit, but the turbulence it generates produces a more powerful slipstream for drivers, which should produce some exciting racing.

For the first time since 2005 there’s competition between different engine manufacturers. Chevrolet had the upper hand in qualifying, taking nine of the top ten places on the grid. It remains to be seen if Honda can compete on fuel mileage in the race – the two have been closely-matched in the races so far.

Jean Alesi, Fan Force United-Lotus, Indianapolis, 2012However the two Lotus-engined cars qualified in the last two places and may struggle to stay in the race. Five of the 26 cars in the first race of the season were using the Lotus powerplant, a figure which has dwindled to two out of 33 this weekend. Teams have been quick to drop the underpowered engines.

Race director Beaux Barfield has said cars which are more than 5% off the pace during the race will be disqualified. Simona de Silvestro was 5.34% off in qualifying and Jean Alesi (pictured) 7.24% in his first IndyCar race weekend.

Read more about the new cars here:

In memory of Dan

This year’s race will inevitably be tinged with sadness as since then we have lost the driver who won it so spectacularly this year.

It is the first IndyCar race on an oval since Dan Wheldon lost his life in the appalling crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16th last year.

The car Wheldon won last year’s race with will be driven on a lap of honour before the race starts by team owner Bryan Herta.

2012 Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifying

Ryan Briscoe starts from pole position for Penske after the closest ever content for pole in the 101-year history of the speedway. He beat Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe by 0.0023s over four laps of the circuit, average 364.49kph (226.484mph).

Hinchcliffe’s team mate Ryan-Hunter-Reay joins them on the front row as the Indianapolis 500 grid is three cars wide.

Championship leader Will Power starts from fifth. He’s won the last three races on road and street courses but his record on ovals is less strong. He’s flanked by Marco Andretti and three-times Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

The highest Honda-powered driver is American rookie Josef Newgarden driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. He shares row three with KV duo Tony Kanaan and EJ Viso.

The third KV car belonging to Rubens Barrichello is tenth on the grid, the highest he has started so far in his IndyCar career.

Reigning champion Dario Franchitti is in the middle of the pack – 16th, having not enjoyed a good start to the season with the new car.

JR Hildebrand, who came within one corner of winning last year’s race, is 18th. Former F1 drivers Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais are 19th, 21st and 25th – the latter making his first start with a Chevrolet instead of a Lotus.

The punishing 500-mile race often comes down to who can tune their car in to the shifting conditions at the track, manoeuvre themselves into the best strategic position at the end of the race and – of course – sustain almost three hours of flat-out racing without striking the unforgiving walls.

This is one of the supreme challenges of motor racing – that it takes place on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix is an embarrassment of riches for a motor racing fan. Join in with us and enjoy both great races this weekend.

The 2012 Indianapolis 500 on F1 Fanatic Live

We’ll be following every lap of the 2012 Indianapolis 500 on F1 Fanatic Live. Keep an eye out for the live page appearing after the Monaco Grand Prix.

The race is shown on Sky Sports 4 in the UK, covering starting at 4:30pm.

You can follow F1 Fanatic Live on Twitter for updates during the race and catch up on more pre-race news in the forum:

2012 Indianapolis 500 starting grid

Row 1 1. Ryan Briscoe 226.484mph
Penske Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
2. James Hinchcliffe 226.481mph
Andretti Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay 226.240mph
Andretti Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 2 4. Marco Andretti 225.456mph
Andretti Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
5. Will Power 225.422mph
Penske Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
6. Helio Castroneves 225.172mph
Penske Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 3 7. Josef Newgarden 224.037mph
Sarah Fisher Hartman Dallara DW12 Honda
8. Tony Kanaan 224.751mph
KV Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
9. EJ Viso 224.422mph
KV Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 4 10. Rubens Barrichello 224.264mph
KV Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
11. Alex Tagliani 224.000mph
Bryan Herta Dallara DW12 Honda
12. Graham Rahal 223.959mph
Ganassi Dallara DW12 Honda
Row 5 13. Ana Beatriz 223.920mph
Andretti/Conquest Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
14. Charlie Kimball 223.868mph
Ganassi Dallara DW12 Honda
15. Scott Dixon 223.684mph
Ganassi Dallara DW12 Honda
Row 6 16. Dario Franchitti 223.582mph
Ganassi Dallara DW12 Honda
17. James Jakes 223.482mph
Dale Coyne Dallara DW12 Honda
18. JR Hildebrand 223.422mph
Panther Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 7 19. Takuma Sato 223.392mph
RLL Dallara DW12 Honda
20. Townsend Bell 223.134mph
Schmidt Dallara DW12 Honda
21. Justin Wilson 222.929mph
Dale Coyne Dallara DW12 Honda
Row 8 22. Michel Jourdain 222.893mph
RLL Dallara DW12 Honda
23. Simon Pagenaud 222.891mph
Schmidt Dallara DW12 Honda
24. Sebastian Saavedra 222.811mph
AFS/Andretti Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 9 25. Sebastien Bourdais 223.760mph
Dragon Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
26. Wade Cunningham 223.258mph
AJ Foyt Dallara DW12 Honda
27. Oriol Servia 222.393mph
Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 10 28. Ed Carpenter 222.324mph
Ed Carpenter Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
29. Mike Conway 222.319mph
AJ Foyt Dallara DW12 Honda
30. Katherine Legge 221.624mph
Dragon Dallara DW12 Chevrolet
Row 11 31. Bryan Clauson 214.455mph
Sarah Fisher Hartman Dallara DW12 Honda
32. Simona de Silvestro 214.393mph
HVM Dallara DW12 Lotus
33. Jean Alesi 210.094mph
Fan Force United Dallara DW12 Lotus

The 2012 IndyCar season so far

IndyCar Grand Prix of St Petersburg

The new IndyCar era began in Miami. Will Power led early on but an early pit stop dropped him back into the pack, letting team mate Helio Castronever in to win.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama

Power battled through the field in Alabama to win ahead of Scott Dixon in an action-packed race.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach

Mass penalties for the Chevrolet drivers put Dario Franchitti on pole at Long Beach. He came under attack from Josef Newgarden at turn one but the rookie’s move proved too optimistic and he crashed out.

Franchitti slipped back and Power claimed the win despite Simon Pagenaud hunting him down quickly in a thrilling end to the race.

Sao Paulo Indy 300

Power made it three wins in a row in Brazil, this time after starting from pole position. Takuma Sato took his best IndyCar finish to date with third behind Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The 2011 Indianapolis 500

Dan Wheldon, Indianapolis 500, 2012No-one who witnessed the closing laps of last year’s Indianapolis 500 will forget the moment of pure drama on the final lap. As a motor racing fan, it was up there with Interlagos 2008 as one of the most astonishing moments I’ve ever seen on a race track.

In the closing stages Dario Franchitti looked well-placed to claim the lead after his last fuel stop. But he was passed by JR Hildebrand, the American making his first Indy 500 start.

So it was Hildebrand who inherited the lead after Bertrand Baguette’s effort to make it to the end without a final stop failed on lap 197.

Hildebrand had led earlier in the race and with three laps to go he was out in front and seemingly uncatchable. Behind him Dan Wheldon, who had been fifth when Baguette pitted, passed Scott Dixon for second place.

Wheldon had lost his full-time IndyCar seat at Panther Racing to Hildebrand during the off-season, and this race was supposed to be his only start of the year. As the final lap began he looked set repeat his second place finish of the previous two Indy 500s.

But as Hildebrand approached the last corner for the 200th and final time, he ran wide lapping Charlie Kimball, got onto the slippery asphalt on the outside of the corner, and smashed into the barrier.

Hildebrand’s shattered car had more than enough momentum to carry him across the line, but the charging Wheldon beat him to it by two seconds. It was a stunning and emotional second win in the race for Wheldon.

You can watch the race in full here.

Indianapolis 500 history

This year sees the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. The race was first held in 1911, and last year marked its 100th anniversary.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed marked the centenary with a parade of race-winnind cars including the inaugural winner, the 1911 Marmon Wasp. Have a look at some of the great, weird and wonderful cars to have triumphed at the Brickyard:

IndyCar

Images ?? Ron McQueeney, Chris Jones, Chirs Jones

Advert | Go Ad-free

46 comments on 2012 Indianapolis 500 preview: America’s great race gets a new look

  1. Victor_RO (@victor_ro) said on 25th May 2012, 12:40

    Slight correction: race director nowadays is another BB, Beaux Barfield, former race director for the ALMS between 2008 and 2011. Barnhart (or TGBB as he’s “affectionately” known, taste the irony) has been removed from that position over the winter.

  2. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 25th May 2012, 13:22

    Ah, what great weekend of motor sport ahead of us, I could just watch races all day (also the FR3.5 if I can find it), unfortunately not the way the wife and kids would choose to spend the sunny Pentacost weekend…

    Small typos: “Wheldon but him to it” and “Join is with us”.

  3. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 25th May 2012, 13:26

    I’ve never actually watched an oval race in full before, but the races I’ve seen from IndyCar so far this season have been thrillers, so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out on the oval. Certainaly, this year’s race has the makings of a classic, and with Rubens and Jean Alesi, two of my all time favourite drivers, on the grid it should be good to watch.

  4. matt90 (@matt90) said on 25th May 2012, 13:54

    Should number 7 on the grid have a time of 25 rather than 24?

  5. TED BELL said on 25th May 2012, 14:25

    These cars look superb

  6. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 25th May 2012, 14:32

    Those of you in the midwest, I looked up infield tickets and they’re only $30 bucks. I’m thinking of going if anyone else wants to go and possibly meet up.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th May 2012, 16:17

      Good luck in making it there @jouy-poey, It will be quite the experience, I am sure.

      • Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 25th May 2012, 18:53

        I was lucky enough to get some free tickets off my brother last year (he worked on designing the giant hot-wheels jump stunt) and after that, I definitely wanna go back. It’s a great experience!

    • TED BELL said on 26th May 2012, 5:58

      My Late father in law did the infield in the middle fifties and said it was a real party. He said hearing the Offies was a really cool experience and the infield was then a place that was most unique or better called a place where beer flowed and the cars were fast.

  7. soundscape (@soundscape) said on 25th May 2012, 14:51

    That St Petersburg track looks horrendously dangerous for the drivers. I’m shocked they actually allow open-wheel racing on that circuit.

  8. teampenske3 said on 25th May 2012, 14:53

    Quick correction Mr. Collantine, the first race was not in Miami but rather in St. Petersburg.

    My father is at the Miller Lite Carb Day today, and I cannot wait for the race Sunday!

  9. PJ (@pjtierney) said on 25th May 2012, 15:06

    The Long Beach circuit has an awesome backdrop. I was there about a month before the race working at an event and the track was already laid out in terms of barriers, going around where I was staying (The Hyatt and Long Beach Convention Center).

  10. robbiepblake (@driftin) said on 25th May 2012, 15:38

    I’ll always prefer Formula 1 as it’s a much more technical sport, with left AND right, slow AND fast – but if there’s one thing the Americans do better than the Europeans it’s spectacle and fireworks and razzmatazz – and that’s not just in the sport itself. Look at the amount of people there! I bet the atmosphere and sound must be brilliant, even if the sport is just literally cars going round in circles.

    • teampenske3 said on 25th May 2012, 15:47

      Not to be antagonistic here, but the races that Keith uploaded were all road courses, with slow and fast corners. There are only five or so ovals on this year’s calendar.

      I agree that it’s less technical from the perspective of the car, but I and many other fans long for the CART days when we had interesting and varied chassis, with cars hitting 240 mph at some point. Following the split, they haven’t been as technical as F1, but at this point, I don’t think that anyone, save for the big fish Penske, Ganassi, and maybe Andretti, could afford how much an F1 team spends in terms of R&D and such.

      And yeah, there are a lot of people there. Race day, the grandstands are have about 250k, with upwards of another 100k camping out on the infield in caravans.

      • I am a big F1 fan as well, and have a big Sunday ahead of me. I have to get up at6:30 am to watch Monaco, have a bit of a break to fuel up, and then it is a 5 hour Indy 500 broadcast.

        You should watch a few ovals before writing it off as just going in circles. It is a tough race. They drive along all day at average speeds around 215 – 218 for the leader, 350 KPH and passing is possible but difficult, and off line in the turns is treacherous, which makes passing a risky proposition. There will be about 7 pit stops per car. A lot happens. Not having any attachment to the teams or drivers does make any racing less compelling, but you should give it a chance.

        Alesi has no chance. The Lotus motor is down on power and power is speed at Indy. I am guessing he will get black flagged after 1/4 way.

        Rubens has a fine car. KV is a quality team, the best of the rest. The team boss is Jimmy Vasser, a former good driver, and they are capable of winning this race. KV is a Chevy team, which means they have the best motor, which is a good part of the game. With identical cars, the best setup and a mistake free race is the key. The leaders cover 100M/second, so any pit mistakes ruin your race.

        In addition to The Penske & Andretti powerhouse teams and KV, watch the Target Twins. They have Hondas which have been slower, but suddenly posted top times in the last practice. Both Dario and Scott are very good at ovals and the team’s racecraft is first rate.

        And it will be a super hot race. 3 1/2 hours is a long time. Physical and mental toughness will count for much at the end.

        I hope you guys enjoy our style of racing.

        • TED BELL said on 26th May 2012, 6:09

          Well said… you know what you are talking about and racing at Indy is something that few F1 drivers have ever been good at. The rate of speed, the need for precision, the mental challenge, the need for a pile of luck, all make the Indy experience one of the greatest challenges in all of motorsport.

          I love my F1, but fully recognize how difficult success is at the Indianapolis 500.

  11. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 25th May 2012, 15:46

    I hardly care about IndyCar but I’ll be watching this one :). Hope it’s exciting enough!!

  12. Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 25th May 2012, 16:26

    Great preview Keith! I’m watching Carb day on t.v. and can’t wait for the race. I’ve got a feeling James Hinchliffe is going to take this one. He has gone from strength to strength this season and just has the air of something special about him lately.

  13. lubhz (@lubhz) said on 25th May 2012, 16:26

    questionable aesthetic merit

    Very polite, they are horrendous!
    The most beautiful ones in my opinion were those from about 1989 – 1994, when I was following Fittipaldi.

    • Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 25th May 2012, 18:56

      @lubhz I completely agree with you. You should check Indy Car’s youtube page as they’ve uploaded lots of classic races. The ’92 Mid-Ohio race is chock-full of great names and beautiful cars (with even better liveries!).

    • TED BELL said on 26th May 2012, 6:19

      Sorry , I think you are wrong about the cars. Try to understand why they look like they do. Just like F1 there are formulas that make them what they are. The ideas implimented to seek safer methods to avoid wheel to wheel contact have presented a rather odd looking car, but in truth they are really pretty good looking cars. Don’t compare them to this current class of Grand Prix cars, they are so different and have unique features. Formula One is lucky to now been safe for so many years, but another Imola day could change them forever and has happen to Indy cars. Take another look.

  14. Eode said on 25th May 2012, 16:48

    Thanks for posting this!
    I really like that track in Alabama. It reminds me of Donnington Park. Also, I’m curious to see how well the rear structure works in a wheel impact from behind. Looks like there is a significant bar back behind the bodywork.

  15. xmurrx (@xmurrx) said on 25th May 2012, 16:48

    I know that most people here hate it but i figured it is worth mentioning. NASCAR also has one of its biggest races Sunday night as well. The 53rd running of the Coke 600 also know as the World 600 is NASCAR’s endurance race with it being 600 miles long. It is also at one of the most historic and popular tracks on the circuit, Charlotte Motor Speedway.

    If any one is remotely interested in NASCAR you should tune in. It is usually one of the best races of the season. I think its awesome that three of the biggest races are happening on the same day.

    • Damon (@damon) said on 25th May 2012, 17:56

      I think its awesome that three of the biggest races are happening on the same day.

      How is that awesome? That’s awful. One distracts your focus from the other, the media coverage time is shared, therefore it’s less, and the worst thing is if those events overlap in time.
      Although, at least the F1 and Indy don’t run at the same time and are quite a few hours apart. Last year it worked fantastically, for those who remember!

      • xmurrx (@xmurrx) said on 25th May 2012, 18:03

        NASCAR and Indy don’t overlap either. None of them do. Thats what makes it so awesome its a motorsports marathon. You don’t miss a minute of any race. What could be better?

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.