Thursday, May 26, 2022

Indy 500: The field of 33 in 2022

This is May, and this post is all about the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Gone are the exciting years of "Bump Day" for qualifying, when a few unlucky teams and drivers failed to bump their way into the field of 33. This year, it sounds like it was quite the saga simply to get to that 33-car mark. Tradition is tradition with 33, so I'm grateful to whoever was involved in making sure the field is full. 

Even though weather came in and ruined a chunk of the Saturday qualifying, the Fast 12 and Fast 6 format on Sunday to determine the first few rows and pole position was enough excitement for the weekend. Scott Dixon won the pole for the second consecutive year with a four-lap qualifying average speed of 234.046 mph. It's the fastest in Indy 500 history, topping 233.718 mph set in 1996 by the late Scott Brayton. Arie Luyendyk has the all-time four-lap qualifying record with 236.986 mph in 1996, but that was on the second day of qualifications and not eligible for a pole run. 

This year's entire field is also the fastest in Indy 500 history, with an average speed of 231.023 mph, beating out last year's record average speed of 230.294 mph. 

By the numbers
The 2022 field consists of eight prior Indy 500 winners, including a trio of multi-time winners. If you don't know Helio Castroneves' name, you will. He's the defending champion and will attempt to make his "Drive for Five" to become the only five-time winner of the event. He won previously in 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2021, though I make the case that 2002 should have an asterisk attached. 

Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato are back again in search of their third victories. Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud will look to join the two-time-winner club. 

The record for former winners in a field is 10 drivers, back in 1992. Seven rookies are in the field - the most rookies since 2014 when there were also seven rookies. But a couple of these drivers aren't rookies in auto racing. Jimmie Johnson decided to join the Indy 500 fun this year after racing part-time in the IndyCar Series last year following his successful, seven-time-championship NASCAR career. Formula One racer Romain Grosjean makes his first Indy start, along with drivers Devlin DeFrancesco, Callum Ilott, Kyle Kirkwood, Christian Lundgaard and David Malukas. 

Ten rookies have won the Indy 500, and three are in this year's field: Montoya (2000), Castroneves (2001) and Rossi (2016). 

For the first time since 2008, when Dixon won this race, Chip Ganassi Racing has cars starting 1-2 on the grid. It was Dixon and the late Dan Wheldon starting at the front that year. 

This year, there are no female drivers in the field for the second time in three years. Last year, Simona De Silvestro started from the 33rd and final position, making history driving for an all-female-owned team. She finished 31st. The 2020 race marked the first time since 1999 that there wasn't at least one female driver in the field. There were four in the race only a few years ago, and now we're back to no women taking the green flag. Take that for what it's worth. This is a tough event and tough spot to break into when it comes to sponsorship and money. 

Starting grid stats
As I have in the past, I'll remind readers that the best chance to win the Indy 500 comes when you give your car a good starting position within the first two rows. Of course, that's not always the case, like last year when Castroneves started in the third row in the eighth position. But for the three previous years, the winner started in the front row; it's happened 45 times in 105 races. 

This is also the annual reminder that no driver has ever won the race starting from the last three positions, row 11. Actually, there are six other starting positions where no driver has ever won the Indy 500: The 18th spot on the outside of row six; 23rd and 24th in row 8; 26th in the middle of row 9; and 29th and 30th in row 10. So if Conor Daly, Marco Andretti, DeFrancesco, Scott McLaughlin, Dalton Kellett, Montoya, Lundgaard, Jack Harvey or Stefan Wilson win this Sunday, they'll make history in that regard. 

A lot of people will keep their eye on Castroneves trying to win his fifth Indy 500. But the last driver to win from 27th was Fred Frame in 1932. 

Go back to 1936 and the inaugural winner in 1911 to find a winner in row 10, 1974 was the last winner out of row 9 and, as mentioned, row 8 hasn't been great either (winners in 1927 and 1935 starting from the 22nd position). The polesitter has won the race 21 times, the latest being Pagenaud in 2019. The winner has also come out of row one 45 times in 105 races. Add in the second row (19 victories), and the winner has come out of those first two rows 61% of the time. 

So it's not entirely surprising that a driver is better served starting near the front. 

This year's row 2 is the most experienced row with 41 combined career Indy 500 starts. Ed Carpenter with 18 of them, Marcus Ericsson with three and Kanaan with 20. 

Row 1

Scott Dixon - No. 9 PNC Bank chip Ganassi Racing car
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 234.046 mph
Indy 500 wins: 2008

Scott Dixon is a six-time IndyCar champion. He'll start from the pole for the fifth time at Indy (2008, 2015, 2017, 2021, 2022), but he still has only the 2008 Indy 500 victory to his name. The poles are great, but I think he might trade a couple if he could get a second Indy 500 win. He finished 17th last year and led only seven laps. 

Still, Dixon has led 570 laps in his Indy 500 career, the most of any driver in the field.

In his career, Dixon has 51 IndyCar victories, ranking third all-time. 

Alex Palou - No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing car
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 233.499 mph 

He's the reigning IndyCar Series champion, the first Spaniard to win an IndyCar Series title, and finished as the runner-up in the 2021 Indy 500 when Castroneves passed him headed into turn one on lap 198 (two to go). He ranks second in series points this season with 156.

Rinus VeeKay - No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile car
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 233.385 mph  

He's in his second full season with Ed Carpenter racing and started last year's race at 20 years old and the youngest front-row starter for the race. He won the road-course, Indy Grand Prix in 2021 for his first career victory. VeeKay has also qualified well each time for the Indy 500, starting fourth or better in his three Indy 500 starts (fourth as a rookie in 2020 and third in 2021).

Last year, he became the youngest driver to start from the front row in Indy 500 history, starting third and finishing eighth. 

Row 2

Ed Carpenter - No. 33 Alzamend Neuro car
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 233.080 mph 

Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter is 41 years old and the only owner/driver in the field. He spends the majority of his time as an IndyCar team owner but races Indy where he's always qualified well. He has three Indy 500 poles to his name, though still looking for a victory. He's won three times in his IndyCar career, all on ovals. 

He's starting fourth for a second consecutive Indy 500. He finished fifth last year. 

Marcus Ericsson - No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing car
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 232.764 mph

Ericsson improves on his ninth-place start from last year when he finished 11th. The Swedish driver competed in Formula One before joining IndyCar in 2019. He has two career IndyCar victories, both last season, and nine top-5 finishes. 

Tony Kanaan - No. 1 The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing car
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 232.372 mph 
Indy 500 wins: 2013

Tony Kanaan ended his string of bad luck at Indy when he won the 500 in 2013. He's no longer a full-time racer in the series, but Kanaan is back to try for a second Indy 500 victory. He's still a fan favorite and comes into the race with a total of 346 laps led at the speedway. His last win in an IndyCar, of his 17 total, came back in 2014. 

He's the oldest driver in the field at 47 years, 149 days old as of race day. He's starting from the second row for a second year in a row, starting fifth and finishing 10th last year. 

Row 3

Pato O'Ward - No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP car
Team: Arrow McLaren SP
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 232.705 mph

O'Ward was the 2020 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year with a sixth-place finish. Last year, he started 12th and finished fourth. He won this year's race at Barber for his third career win. 

Felix Rosenqvist - No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP car
Team: Arrow McLaren SP
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 232.182 mph 

The 2019 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, his lone IndyCar win came back in the 2020 season, which is also the last time he's finished in the top-5 in a race. This year's Indy 500 will be his 51st career IndyCar race. 

Romain Grosjean - No. 28 DHL car 
Team: Andretti Autosport
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 231.999 mph  

He's an experienced rookie in the field in his second full season of IndyCar racing. He previously made 180 starts in Formula One before 2021. He recorded three podium finishes in IndyCar last season but is still looking for his first win in the series. He's been the focus of some controversy lately, bumping into drivers' cars on track, most recently bumping Graham Rahal twice around the same stretch at Barber. 

Row 4

Takuma Sato - No. 51 Nurtec ODT car
Team: Dale Coyne Racing with RWR
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 231.670 mph 
Indy 500 wins: 2017, 2020

Sato won the 500 in 2020 under caution when the race was moved to August because of the pandemic. He also came close in 2012 when he and Dario Franchitti touched on the final lap, sending Sato into the wall and Franchitti to his third Indy 500 win. Sato has six IndyCar wins, the last being that 2020 Indy 500. 

Last year, he started 15th and finished 14th for the big race. 

Will Power - No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car
Team: Team Penske 
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 231.534 mph 
Indy 500 wins: 2018

Power was the only Team Penske driver to make the Fast 12 in qualifying, which is much improved from his disastrous last-row start last year. He's also this season's points leader in the IndyCar standings with 170 points after he's finished in the top-5 of all five races so far this season. He's won at least one IndyCar race from 2007-21 and looking to make it 16-straight seasons with perhaps a win at Indy for the second time. 

Jimmie Johnson - No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing car
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 231.264 mph

The buzz about Johnson is that this is his rookie start in the Indy 500 at 46 years old. He's in his second season as a full-time IndyCar driver, but he only raced on the road and street circuits in 2021. Of course, he's most famous for being a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and regarded as one of the best drivers in the history of that sport. The only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 in their careers are A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. Johnson will look to join that short list. 

Row 5

David Malukas - No. 18 HMD car
Team: Dale Coyne Racing with HMD 
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 231.607 mph 

Malukas is the youngest driver in the field at 20 years old, his birthday came a couple of weeks after 9/11. He's come up through the Indy Lights ranks, winning seven races in the support series in 2021. He's led three laps so far this year in his rookie season. 

Josef Newgarden - No. 2 Shell Team Penske car
Team: Team Penske
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 231.580 mph 

There's no doubt that Josef Newgarden has established a successful IndyCar career. He won the series championships in 2017 and 2019, after all. He's won a lot of races. But unlike most of his Penske teammates from past to present, Newgarden hasn't won the Indy 500 yet. Running a Penske machine always seems to give drivers a leg up in the Indy 500, so that helps. Newgarden started in row 7 last year but finished 12th. 

Newgarden won back-to-back races this year, on the Texas oval and the Long Beach road course. His best finish in the Indy 500 was third in 2016 with Ed Carpenter's team. 

Santino Ferrucci - No. 23 Palermo's Screamin Sicilian DRR car
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 231.508 mph 

He started back in 23rd last year but rebounded well and finished sixth. He's dabbled in the Formula One support series for a few seasons before landing back in IndyCar for the 500. His seventh-place finish at Indy in 2019 earned him Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors. 

Row 6

Simon Pagenaud - No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM car
Team: Meyer Shank Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 231.275 mph 
Indy 500 wins: 2019

Pagenaud is with a new team this season after racing for a while with powerhouse Team Penske, and winning the Indy 500 in 2019 when he and Rossi made it an entertaining finish with multiple passes in the closing laps. He won the IndyCar Series in 2016 and is a 15-time race winner. But he didn't find victory lane in 2021. He started his career in the Champ Car days in 2007. 

JR Hildebrand - No. Homes For Our Troops/AJ FOYT RACING car
Team: AJ Goyt Enterprises
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 231.112 mph 

Until Hilebrand does anything else worth noting, he will always be known as the driver who crashed in turn four of the final lap in 2011, paving the path for Dan Wheldon to win the race. It's just the way it is. Hildebrand was still the rookie of the year in 2011, and I imagine that race still haunts him. He's not a full-time driver in the series anymore and instead has made the Indy 500 starts the past few years. 

Conor Daly - No. 20 BitNile car
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 230.999 mph

One of the most exciting moments in the 2021 Indy 500, especially for Hoosier State natives, was when Indiana-native Conor Daly led the race. He finished 13th and led a race-high 40 laps. His best finish was 10th in 2019. The son of former racer Derek Daly, he's still looking for his first win in IndyCar. 

Row 7

Callum Ilott - No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing car
Team: Juncos Hollinger Racing
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 230.961 mph 

He has one top-10 finish this IndyCar season, after racing in three events in 2021. 

Alexander Rossi - No. NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation car
Team: Andretti Autosport
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 230.812 mph 
Indy 500 wins: 2016

Rossi's brightest moment was a fuel strategy that paid off and sent him to victory in the 100th running of the Indy 500 in 2016 - as a rookie. He has seven victories but the last coming in 2019 when he won at Road America and finished third in championship points that season. He wasn't too pleased with how Indy 500 qualifying shook out this year, a combination of weather/track conditions and the "luck of the draw" of the qualifying order. 

Graham Rahal - No. 15 United Rentals car
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 230.766 mph

Rahal didn't finish last year's race due to a crash. He's turning into a series veteran now, racing for his dad's (1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal) team since the 2007 Champ Car days. He's a six-time race winner but last won in 2017 when he swept the doubleheader at Detroit. He's a driver that's always in the mix but never seems to find himself at the top of the podium. 

Row 8

Sage Karam - No. 24 AES Indiana DRR car
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 230.464 mph 

Karam is probably just happy to be starting somewhere other than the last row this year. From 2019-21, Karam started 31st on the grid. He had his best finish last year, in seventh place. There was a great piece recently about Karam's struggles and journey through racing in the years following the tragic incident that led to driver Justin Wilson's death at Pocono in 2015. It was a piece of Karam's car that struck Wilson on the track. 

Marco Andretti - No. 98 KULR Technology / Curb car
Team: Andretti Herta Autosport w/ Marco & Curb
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 230.345 mph 

This marks the second year that Marco Andretti isn't racing in IndyCar full time. He stepped away to pursue some other racing interests, but of course, he still wants to enter the biggest race of the year. With his dad, Michael Andretti, still a team owner, it's a logical step. This will always be a sentimental pick to win, as long as Marco enters the Indy 500 field. He famously lost the 2006 race in his rookie season by the slimest of margins to Sam Hornish Jr. He also won the pole position in 2020. 

Marco is always chasing family history behind his grandfather, Mario Andretti, who is the only Andretti to win the race in 1969. Marco's dad Michael is the greatest driver to never win the race (he got close in 1992, for example), though he's won as a team owner multiple times. Marco usually runs well at Indianapolis, even if drinking the milk always ends up out of reach. 

Devlin DeFrancesco - No. 29 PowerTap car
Team: Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 230.326 mph 

He's a rookie who competed in the Indy Pro 2000 on the way to IndyCar. 

Row 9

Colton Herta - No. 26 Gainbridge car
Team: Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 230.235 mph 

If you believe in momentum, Herta has already won one race at Indianapolis this month, the grand prix on the speedway's road course. He's still on the young side of IndyCar - and became the youngest IndyCar winner ever - but he's been successful already in his fifth season in the series with seven victories. His dad and former driver Bryan Herta is part team owner for his car.

Colton will start his fourth Indy 500 this year; he finished eighth in 2020. 

Scott McLaughlin - No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske car 
Team: Team Penske
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 230.154 mph

McLaughlin, the 2021 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, won the first race of this season and ranks third in this year's series points. Before IndyCar, the New Zealander was still with Team Penske but as a successful driver in Australian Supercars. 

Helio Castroneves - No. 06 AutoNation/Sirius XM car
Team: Meyer Shank Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 229.630 mph 
Indy 500 wins: 2001, 2002, 2009, 2021

Castroneves joined legends A.J. Foyt, the late Al Unser Sr. (died Dec. 9, 2021) and Rick Mears on the list of four-time Indy 500 winners when he won the race last year driving for Meyer Shank Racing rather than Roger Penske, the team owner he drove for in most of his successful career. At 47, Castroneves is one of the oldest drivers in the field; he would be the third-oldest winner of the race should he win this year behind Al Unser and Bobby Unser. Al Unser was 47 and 360 days old when he won his fourth in 1987; Castroneves turned 47 on May 10. 

He's the most experienced driver in the field with 21 previous Indy 500 starts. Thirty-five starts is the record, set by A.J. Foyt from 1958-92. 

The Indy 500 has seen five back-to-back winners, with the last being Castroneves when he won in 2001 and 2002. Before that, it was Al Unser in 1970 and 1971. As an extra incentive, BorgWarner (of the famous Borg-Warner trophy) put up a $400,000 bonus for Castroneves if he can achieve victory once again. 

Castroneves has won the race starting in rows 3, 4 and 5, never from the pole or the first two rows. 

Row 10

Kyle Kirkwood - No. 14 ROKiT / AJ FOYT RACING car
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 229.406 mph 

He's the only driver to win championships in all three divisions on the Road to Indy support series in Cooper Tires USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights series before making the jump to IndyCar as a rookie this season. 

Dalton Kellett - No. 4 K-LINE / AJ FOYT RACING car
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: 228.916 mph 

It's his third year as an IndyCar regular. He struggles to find speed during races. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get lapped early. He crashed out of Indy in 2020 to finish 31st but improved to finish 23rd last year. And as I worked on this piece, Kellett crashed into the wall in practice the Monday following qualifying. He came out of it unscathed. 

Juan Pablo Montoya - No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP car
Team: Arrow McLaren SP 
Engine: Chevrolet 
Qualifying speed: 228.622 mph
Indy 500 wins: 2000, 2015

Another one of the most veteran race drivers in the field at 46 years old. He won the storied race as a rookie in 2000. Montoya dabbled in CART, NASCAR, sports cars and Formula One in his diverse racing portfolio. He's the only driver to win the CART championship (1999), Indy 500 (2000) and Rolex 24 at Daytona (2007) in his first attempts. He has 15 career wins in CART and IndyCar. 

Row 11

Christian Lundgaard - No. 30 PeopleReady car
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 227.053 mph 

He's in his first full season in IndyCar this year, with one top-10 in five races so far. 

Jack Harvey - No. 45 Hy-Vee car
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine: Honda
Qualifying speed: 226.851 mph

He finished 18th in last year's Indy 500. He's one of five drivers who have won on both the oval and the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Indy Lights series. He's still looking for his first victory in the top IndyCar series. 

Stefan Wilson - No. 25 DragonSpeed / Cusick Motorsports car 
Team: DragonSpeed / Cusick Motorsports
Engine: Chevrolet
Qualifying speed: No speed; did not run due to engine change/weather

Wilson carries on the racing history in the footsteps of his late brother Justin Wilson. Stefan's best finish was 15th in 2018; he was the leader on lap 195 but had to pit for fuel on lap 196 and surrender the lead. He crashed out in last year's racing, registering a 33rd/last-place finish. He'll make his fourth Indy 500 start this year. 

No comments:

Post a Comment