Speeds have risen around the Brickyard since the introduction of the new Dallara DW12 chassis and V6 turbo engines two years ago. Last year Tony Kanaan post the fastest average speed for a winner in the Speedway’s history: 187.433mph (301.644kph).
In qualifying this year the 2.1 second gap between the fastest and slowest qualifying runners (over four-lap runs) was the closest ever seen at Indianapolis. The average speed of the field, 229.382mph (369.155kph), is also a new record.
And while Ed Carpenter’s pole position speed of 231.067mph (371.866kph) may be 6mph off Arie Luyendyk’s 1996 record, it’s another step towards IndyCar’s stated aim of reviving the pursuit of ultimate speed at the Speedway.
It’s also a lot quicker than Kurt Busch is used to. The 2004 NASCAR champion will compete in Sunday evening’s race at Charlotte after taking the green flag at Indianapolis. NASCAR race once per year at the Brickyard, and last year’s pole time was over 40mph slower than Carpenter’s.
But picking a winner from such a close field is a tough ask. Carpenter shares the front row with James Hinchcliffe and championship leader Will Power – none of which have ever won at Indianapolis before.
But Power’s Penske team mate Helio Castroneves is seeking a fourth victory from row two. And he’s doing so in a car which bears one of the iconic Indianapolis liveries – the distinctive yellow of Pennzoil.
With Montoya also in the top ten, the three Penske cars line up in front of the Ganassi continent, which includes last year’s winner Tony Kanaan. But the grid ultimately counts for little in a race which will last well over two-and-a-half hours, and the silver Ganassi cars were quick in practice.
2014 Indianapolis 500 grid
Here’s how the 33 cars will line up:
|1||20||Ed Carpenter||Carpenter||Chevrolet||231.067||Owner-driver on pole for second year in a row, finished tenth last year.|
|2||27||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti||Honda||230.839||Recovered from concussion sustained in race on Indy road course two weeks ago|
|3||12||Will Power||Penske||Chevrolet||230.697||Has won 19 IndyCar races but just once on an oval – at Fontana last year.|
|4||3||Helio Castroneves||Penske||Chevrolet||230.649||Another Indy 500 win would tie him with record-holding four-time winners.|
|5||77||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt||Honda||230.614||Won the road course race and has finished in the top five at every round so far.|
|6||25||Marco Andretti||Andretti||Honda||230.544||Grandson of F1 champion and IndyCar great is yet to win in a race in the DW12.|
|7||34||Carlos Munoz||Andretti||Honda||230.146||Stunned last year with second on the grid and at the flag. First full season.|
|8||67||Josef Newgarden||SFHR||Honda||229.893||On an upward trajectory: second at Baltimore last year and raced well at Long Beach.|
|9||21||J.R. Hildebrand||Carpenter||Chevrolet||228.726||No full-time seat this year. Crashed while leading his first 500 at final turn in 2011.|
|10||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||Penske||Chevrolet||231.007||One Indy 500 start; one win. Back in single-seaters after seven years away.|
|11||9||Scott Dixon||Ganassi||Chevrolet||230.928||Three-times IndyCar champion had a single Indy 500 win in 2008.|
|12||26||Kurt Busch||Andretti||Honda||230.782||Will also race in NASCAR’s 600-mile race on same day. Quick but crashed in practice.|
|13||98||Jack Hawksworth||Herta||Honda||230.506||Led 31 laps around road course and deserved better than seventh on his fourth start.|
|14||19||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne||Honda||230.256||Periodic winner with Dale Coyne but tends to lose out in the pits.|
|15||7||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt||Honda||203.049||IndyCar’s first Russian driver, won the Formula Renault 3.5 title in 2010.|
|16||10||Tony Kanaan||Ganassi||Chevrolet||229.922||Took an overdue and popular first Indianapolis 500 win last year.|
|17||11||Sebastien Bourdais||KV||Chevrolet||229.847||Dominant in Champ Car, unsuccessful in F1, yet to win a race in IndyCar.|
|18||16||Oriol Servia||RLL||Honda||229.752||Spanish veteran of US racing had a career-best fourth at Indianapolis two years ago.|
|19||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti||Honda||229.719||Redeemed himself with wet weather win in Barber after Long Beach shunt.|
|20||15||Graham Rahal||RLL||Honda||229.628||Second-generation driver still looking for follow up to maiden 2008 win.|
|21||18||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne||Honda||229.251||Switched from European racing after two years in Formula Renault 3.5.|
|22||63||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne||Honda||229.223||The only woman in the field, making her first start of the year.|
|23||14||Takuma Sato||Foyt||Honda||229.201||As he was in F1: fast, fearless but ragged. Won at Long Beach last year.|
|24||68||Alex Tagliani||SFHR||Honda||229.148||Led a lap last year but last win at any level was now six years ago.|
|25||6||Townsend Bell||KV||Chevrolet||229.009||More commonly found in the commentary team these days, took best of fourth in 2009.|
|26||83||Charlie Kimball||Ganassi||Chevrolet||228.953||Took surprise win at Mid-Ohio last season but hasn’t repeated that form yet this year.|
|27||5||Jacques Villeneuve||Schmidt||Honda||228.949||Returning to the race he won in 1995 before the split happened.|
|28||33||James Davison||KV||Chevrolet||228.865||Dabbled in IndyCar two years ago, Indy Lights runner-up in 2009.|
|29||41||Martin Plowman||Foyt||Honda||228.814||Shared the WEC LMP2 title with his Oak team mates last year.|
|30||8||Ryan Briscoe||Ganassi||Chevrolet||228.713||Back at Ganassi for this season after a five-year stint at Penske which ended in 2012.|
|31||22||Sage Karam||Ganassi||Chevrolet||228.436||Reigning Indy Lights champion is making his IndyCar debut.|
|32||17||Sebastian Saavedra||KV||Chevrolet||228.088||Fortunate pole for road course race led to carnage when he failed to get away.|
|33||91||Buddy Lazier||Lazier||Chevrolet||227.920||Won the first post-split 500 in 1996, the 46-year-old is making up the numbers now.|
Indianapolis 500 gallery
Watching the Indianapolis 500
I will feature on BT Sport’s live coverage of Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. The build-up starts at 3:30pm with a special edition of Motorsport Tonight, then the main broadcast begins at 4:30pm with a race start time of 5pm.
For those of you not in the UK you can find and share IndyCar coverage details here:
And as always F1 Fanatic Live will be running throughout the race – look out for the live page on the site shortly after the Monaco Grand Prix.
Over to you
Who’s your tip for success in the Indianapolis 500? How do you think Montoya and Villeneuve will fare? Have your say in the comments.
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Images © IndyCar/Chris Jones