I may have gone a little overboard here, but I've outlined the entire starting grid for the field of 33 drivers, which includes rookies, past winners and IndyCar champions. Like each of the past two years, there is just one woman in the race this year.
It's also the first year that NBC will broadcast the race, a partnership that made sense with the already-involved NBCSN. Before this year, ABC has always broadcast the Indy 500, so we'll see what changes might be in store, if any.
I didn't touch on every single driver below, though I covered most and tried to incorporate some tidbits about the race history with starting/finishing positions.
Happy Indy 500!
Simon Pagenaud - No. 22
Team: Team Penske
Pagenaud is the first Frenchman to win the pole in exactly a century when Rene Thomas started first. For a while during the Fast Nine, it looked like Ed Carpenter was going to lock up his second consecutive Indy 500 pole and fourth overall. That was until Pagenaud turned in a four-lap average of 229.992 mph to take the top spot. He won the IndyCar Series title in 2016, but he went winless for Penske last season. He made a masterful run to catch and pass Scott Dixon in the closing laps of the IndyCar Grand Prix earlier this month, getting him back on the winning track and in search of a clean sweep on May.
Ed Carpenter - No. 20
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Past Indy 500 poles: 2013, 2014, 2018
Before a qualifying run from Pagenaud in the Fast Nine, it looked like it could be an all-Carpenter Racing front row for the 500. There's just something about the speedway that agrees with the team, as it always seems to find the speed. Carpenter, in particular, has had success, which you could label as home-track advantage. The veteran driver and team owner only drives on ovals. He's still looking for his first Indy 500 win.
Spencer Pigot - No. 21
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
It's Pigot's fourth season with the team and second as a full-time driver. He made his Indy 500 debut in 2016 and started out as the team's road and street course driver. His best finish was back in 18th, so he's already put himself in a great position to win. He was born on Sept. 29, so that's cool. ;-)
Ed Jones - No. 63
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Jones is riding the solid work of the Carpenter Racing team. He'll race in his third Indy 500, just missing out on the front row after his previous best start was in 11th position. He crashed out of last year's race.
Colton Herta - No. 88
Team: Harding Steinbrenner Racing
Rookie, won the Freedom 100 in Indy Lights in 2018
Herta will drive the highest-qualifying Honda machine and try to make history as the youngest winner of the Indy 500. He turned 19 on March 30. He's already the youngest driver to win an IndyCar race after he took first at Circuit of the Americas this spring, just before he turned 19.
Will Power - No. 12
Team: Team Penske
Past Indy 500 wins: 2018
Power is the defending Indy 500 champion. The last driver to win back-to-back 500s is Power's former full-time teammate, Helio Castroneves. Power bucked the trend of his unsuccessful runs on oval tracks when he won last year.
Sebastien Bourdais - No. 18
Team: Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan
Best Indy 500 finish: Seventh
Bourdais tore it up in ChampCar, winning titles and races. He's still going strong in IndyCar, and came back from a horrifying crash in Indy 500 qualifying in 2017. He's led just four laps in the big race.
Josef Newgarden - No. 2
Team: Team Penske
Best Indy 500 finish: Third
With his teammate Pagenaud on the pole, and his other teammate Power having won last year, Newgarden might be feeling some pressure (self-imposed or otherwise) to win this race. Heck, everybody wants to win. But Newgarden, the 2017 series champion, has won plenty of other races for one of the series' best teams, and he'd like to check off the biggest race in the world.
Alexander Rossi - No. 27
Team: Andretti Autosport
Past Indy 500 wins: 2016
Rossi won the race as a rookie in one of the most memorable Indy 500s - the 100th running in 2016. A fuel gamble paid off, and he ended up in victory lane. He's only led 37 laps at Indy in three races.
No. 98 Marco Andretti (runner-up in 2006 as a rookie)
No. 25 Conor Daly (improved on his previous best starting position of 22nd)
No. 3 Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009 Indy 500 winner; 4-time Indy 500 polesitter; running his 18th Indy 500)
As one of the most successful veterans in the race, Castroneves holds the lead in many Indy 500 categories among the active drivers. He's run the most laps (3,399) in the most races (18) and led 305 laps in 12 races. Only twice has his car not been running at the end of the race. Since the 2010 race, he's been on the hunt (and has gotten close) for his fourth Indy 500 victory, which would join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.
Marco would be one of the best storybook victories if he could pull it off. As has been mentioned throughout the month, it was 50 years ago in 1969 when his grandfather, Mario, won the Indy 500. Marco's father and team owner, Michael, still holds the record for the most laps led at Indy for someone who never won the race. Marco nearly won in 2006 as a rookie before Sam Hornish Jr. passed him just before the yard of bricks. Marco has eight top-10 finishes in 13 Indy 500s.
Daly, who's without a full-time IndyCar ride this season, makes his best Indy 500 start in his sixth attempt. He'll look to improve on his best finish of 21st.
No. 7 Marcus Ericsson (rookie)
No. 30 Takuma Sato (2017 Indy 500 winner)
No. 33 James Davison (running his 5th Indy 500)
Ericsson, from Sweden, is a rookie in IndyCar and the 500, but he's no rookie when it comes to racing. He spent the past five seasons in Formula 1.
Sato crashed late in the race as he tried to make a pass for the lead and inside hit the wall in the 2012 Indy 500; Dario Franchitti won his third that year. Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500 in 2017, the 101st running of the event.
No. 14 Tony Kanaan (2013 Indy 500 winner; 2005 Indy 500 polesitter; running his 17th Indy 500)
No. 15 Graham Rahal (father/team owner Bobby Rahal won the Indy 500 in 1986)
No. 9 Scott Dixon (2008 Indy 500 winner; 2018 IndyCar Series Champion; 3-time Indy 500 polesitter in 2008, 2015, 2017)
After many years of bad luck, fan-favorite Kanaan finally got his Indy 500 victory six years ago. The Brazilian races for four-time winner A.J. Foyt's team and is one of the veterans on the grid. The only active driver to have raced in more Indy 500s is Castroneves. Kanaan has led in 14 of his Indy 500s, more than any other driver in the 2019 field, good for a total of 355 laps led. He's turned 2,952 laps in the 500.
Dixon has started in the top 10 in 10 of his 16 Indy 500s, including three times on the pole. He didn't make the Fast Nine in qualifying, so the defending IndyCar champion is in a bit of uncharted territory. However, you can never count out the guy known as "Ice Man." He nearly ran away with a victory at the IndyCar Grand Prix this year before Pagenaud caught up to him. Dixon has 11 top-10 finishes in the 500 and has led in 11 races with 439 laps led, more than any other driver in this field. Dixon is one of the best drivers in IndyCar history, but can he finally get his second Indy 500 win? It's been more than a decade since he hit victory lane.
Rahal has three top-10 finishes in his 11 starts as he tries to join his team owner and father, Bobby, as an Indy 500 champ.
No. 77 Oriol Servia (2 top-10 finishes; running his 10th Indy 500)
No. 23 Charlie Kimball (best Indy 500 finish: third)
No. 48 JR Hildebrand (finished second in 2011)
JR Hildebrand, starting in his ninth 500, is connected to one of the most memorable finishes in recent years. He had the lead on the final lap in 2011 and looked well on his way to sipping the milk. But as he came out of the last turn, he tried to go around a lapped car, only to get too high and crash into the outside wall. As his car skidded along, Dan Wheldon was there to capitalize and take the checkered flag for his second Indy 500 victory. But Wheldon was not able to defend his title; he was killed in the season finale in Las Vegas.
Servia is one of the veteran drivers. He's had a lengthy career in ChampCar and then IndyCar when the series merged back together. His first Indy 500 was in 2002 (when Herta was a toddler).
No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014 Indy 500 winner)
No. 19 Santino Ferrucci (rookie)
No. 4 Matheus Leist (finished the Indy 500 13th in his rookie season)
Sure, Hunter-Reay would probably like to be starting further up on the grid. But remember that when he won in 2014, he started in row seven. He was just the sixth winner to come out of that row and first since 1987. However, only two drivers have won from row eight, and you have to go back to 1935 to find the last one: Kelly Petillo started 22nd, the same place Hunter-Reay will start on Sunday.
Leist, the 20-year-old Brazilian, is fresh off his best IndyCar finish in his second year in the series. He took fourth at the IndyCar Grand Prix earlier this month on the speedway's road course.
No. 60 Jack Harvey (running his 3rd Indy 500)
No. 42 Jordan King (rookie)
No. 81 Ben Hanley (rookie)
This row is filled with three Brits. King is an Indy 500 rookie, but he has a few years of racing experience under his belt, including last season in IndyCar. With Ed Carpenter still racing ovals, King would usually take over for road-course duties.
The Manchester, England native Hanley found some speed as a first-year driver with a first-year team to get into the race without being on the bubble or in the Last Row Shootout.
Harvey makes his best start in 25th position for his third Indy 500. His best finish is 16th.
No. 26 Zach Veach (running his 3rd Indy 500)
No. 10 Felix Rosenqvist (rookie)
No. 39 Pippa Mann (only woman in the field)
It wasn't long ago that there were multiple women - four, actually - in the race. Danica Patrick is the most famous, retiring after the Indy 500 last year. As it turned out, Patrick was the only woman in the race last year, after Pippa was bumped. As a one-car, one-off team coming to Indy every year, you had to feel for Pippa. But 2019 has been a time for smiles. There was no doubt she made it, when she landed in the last position (30th) on the first qualifying day. She was in and didn't even have to worry about getting bumped out. Pippa will race in her 7th Indy 500, with her best finish being 17th. She's turned 1,032 laps in her Indy 500 career.
Rosenqvist is also a rookie at Indy, but he's competed in all kinds of racing from Formula E to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
No. 24 Sage Karam (best Indy 500 finish: 9th)
No. 5 James Hinchcliffe (2016 Indy 500 polesitter; failed to qualify for the 2018 field)
No. 32 Kyle Kaiser (bumped Fernando Alonso from the field in the Last Row Shootout; running his 2nd Indy 500)
No driver has ever won the Indianapolis 500 when starting from row 11. With the new qualifying format this year and the Last Row Shootout, these three were just happy to make the field. They were the three that made it out of six drivers last Sunday. It would have been devastating for Hinchcliffe had he missed the race for a second consecutive year. He's had quite the roller coaster at Indy the past few years, from a crash that nearly killed him, to winning the pole and then missing out last year.
Kaiser was the final car to make the field this year, bumping F1 champ Alonso. It's a true underdog story. Kaiser has fewer laps run in the Indy 500 than any other driver on the starting grid this year (110); he finished 29th last year after a mechanical issue ended his day a little early.
Other storylines and tidbits:
- The three oldest drivers in the field are all 44 years old: Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia. Kanaan is the only one of the three who's still in IndyCar with a full-time ride.
- Simon Pagenaud will look to become the 21st driver to win the race from the pole position. The last time that happened? Castroneves with his third win in 2009 and Dixon a year prior.
- There are seven Indy 500 champions in this year's race: Castroneves, Rossi, Sato, Power, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay and Dixon. Castroneves is the only one who's won the race more than once.
- In the past 10 years, the winner has come out of the front row three times (2009, 2010, 2018). However, though the winner has traditionally come from the first three starting positions - a total of 43 times - it's been more of a less predictable, mixed bag the past few years. It was row two in 2011 and 2017, row four in 2013, 2016, row five in 2015, row six in 2012 and row 7 in 2014.
- Only six winners out of 102 races have come from as far back as rows 8-10. The last time it happened? 1974 when Johnny Rutherford won it from the 25th position in the ninth row.