A Guide to the 89th Indy 500

The Indianapolis 500 is commonly referred to as 'the greatest spectacle in autoracing'. It is also the most unpredictable one

A Guide to the 89th Indy 500

Despite spending the best part of a month practicing, qualifying and fine-tuning their 230mph IndyCars, only 14 times in 88 races has the polesitter gone on to win the race.

Crashes, mechanical failures and ill-handling cars have often ruined the favourite's chances, and this is a race where you know anyone of the 33 drivers has a realistic shot at winning.

This year's race starts an hour later than usual at 12:00 local time (17:00 GMT). But who will cross the finish line for the traditional milk-drinking ceremony on the podium?

Autosport-Atlas presents a guide to the 33 contenders.

#11 Tony Kanaan D/H/F

Avg. Speed: 227.566 mph
Total Time: 2:38.1961
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 2nd - 2004

Last year's IRL champion took his first Indy 500 pole this year and is many people's favourite to win. He's got a good car, four IRL victories and three of the last four Indy 500 winners have come from Brazil. However, in the previous 88 runnings on the Indy 500, only 14 pole sitters have won the race. Will lead many laps but will he take the win?

#6 Sam Hornish Jr D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 227.273 mph
Total Time: 2:38.3997
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 5
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 14th - 2001

The double IRL series champion only has a best finish of 14th place in the series' showpiece race but has his best chance this year thanks to his front row start. Surprising he only had one victory in his maiden season with Penske, but is the only other driver than Dan Wheldon to win this season. Should manage his best finish.

#8 Scott Sharp P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 227.126 mph
Total Time: 2:38.5024
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 10
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 10th - 1996, 2000

Despite starting racing in ten Indy 500s and once on pole, the IRL's most experienced driver has only led three of the 1414 laps he has raced here. Sharp has been with the IRL since the beginning and it is encouraging that despite an influx of drivers and teams from Champ Car, he remains as one of the pace setter in this series.

#16 Danica Patrick P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 227.004 mph
Total Time: 2:38.5875
ROOKIE

Patrick has become the most talked and written about driver in the Month of May, because she is a female and, er, fast. Which despite the age of political correctness is still newsworthy. Has topped practice and challenged for pole. Has the potential to make history on Sunday by becoming the first female to take the Indy 500, but will be happy with a podium finish instead.

#3 Helio Castroneves D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 226.927 mph
Total Time: 2:38.6414
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 4 Indianapolis 500 wins: 2 - 2001, 2002

Has won more Indy 500s than any other driver in the field thanks to his back-to-back victories in 2001 and 2002. The Brazilian could have started even higher up the grid if it wasn't for withdrawing his best qualifying run only to go slower. Has been consistently fast all month, but would be a popular hat-trick winner.

#27 Dario Franchitti D/H/F

Avg. Speed: 226.873 mph
Total Time: 2:38.6790
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 2
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 14th - 2004

The Scot doesn't start on the front row this season but will still be in one the fastest cars on race day. Injury has prevented him from starting more than two Indy 500s but is one of the most naturally talented drivers in the field. Could finish strongly.

#17 Vitor Meira P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 226.848 mph
Total Time: 2:38.6969
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 2
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 6th - 2004

Equalled his best Indy 500 start this year by qualifying on the inside of the third row. The Brazilian has yet to win an IRL race since his debut in 2002, which is surprising because he had proved he is fast enough having secured pole in only his fourth race. Meira will have the pace, but might not last the distance.

#55 Kosuke Matsuura P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 226.397 mph
Total Time: 2:39.0130
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 1
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 11th - 2004

Last season's Indy 500 rookie of the year showed promise in 2004 by being fastest in practice time four times. But he hasn't done that this year...

#95 Buddy Lazier D/C/F

Avg. Speed: 226.353 mph
Total Time: 2:39.043
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 12 Career Indianapolis 500 wins: 1 - 1996

The field has got much stronger since Lazier won this race in 1996 - the first year of the Indy Racing League - yet like Scott Sharp, Lazier is still able to run competitively. Has performed well to end up on the third row of the grid - the best Chevy powered car.

#2 Tomas Enge D/C/F

Avg. Speed: 226.107 mph
Total Time: 2:39.2170
ROOKIE

Recovering from the huge qualifying shunt from Motegi, Enge has bounced back to out-qualify his more experienced Panther teammate Tomas Scheckter. However, his fitness is unproven over a race as long as this.

#4 Tomas Scheckter D/C/F

Avg. Speed: 226.031 mph
Total Time: 2:39.2700
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 4th - 2003

How does a guy of Scheckter's talent still only have one IRL win to his name? Three accidents in the last four races have done little to help lose his 'fast but erratic' tag. The South African has led more Indy 500 laps than any other driver in the field but it wouldn't be a surprise if he didn't make the end.

#36 Bruno Junqueira P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 225.704 mph
Total Time: 2:39.5009
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 5th - 2001, 2004

It is easy to forget that the Brazilian was on pole for the Indy 500 three years ago. But he hasn't had the success at Indy to match his Champ Car World Series form, where he has finished runner-up in the series for the last three successive years. Last weekend Junqueira won the Champ Car Monterrey Grand Prix and will be going for two in a row.

#9T Scott Dixon P/T/F

Avg. Speed: 225.215 mph
Total Time: 2:39.8475
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 2
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 8th - 2004

The 2003 IRL series champion has struggled this season, and even switched to rival Dallara chassis for the last race at Motegi and some of the opening practice sessions at Indy. Switched back to Panoz and performed stronger. Unlikely to be in contention for victory.

#5 Adrian Fernandez P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 225.120 mph
Total Time: 2:39.9150
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 7th - 2004

The popular Mexican has come out of retirement to race against his own Fernandez Racing drivers Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura and qualified the worst of the lot. Can still rely on experience if not outright speed.

#37 Sebastien Bourdais P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 224.955 mph
Total Time: 2:40.0323
ROOKIE

A Frenchman with only four single-seater oval races surely cannot perform in the greatest oval race of all? Don't believe it. The reigning Champ Car title-holder won his first oval race at Eurospeedway, and then backed up his oval prowess by taking the IROC race at Texas earlier this season. Doesn't know IRL cars enough to challenge for outright honours, but should finish strong.

#26 Dan Wheldon D/H/F

Avg. Speed: 224.308 mph
Total Time: 2:40.4933
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 2
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 3rd - 2004

He is starting back on row six, but the plucky Brit has the race pace to take his first Indy 500 victory. Has won three out or four IRL races this year and flipping upside down on his Indy debut in 2003 is a distant memory. Has a strong car, shown awesome practice pace but didn't perform in qualifying. Will work his way through the field and is our favorite for victory.

#24 Roger Yasukawa D/H/F

Avg. Speed: 224.131 mph
Total Time: 2:40.6205
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 2
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 10th - 2003, 2004

Yasukawa has yet to be outstanding as an IndyCar driver - his best achievement remains finishing second to Dan Wheldon in the 2003 rookie of the year standings. Has only competed in a handful of race since.

#7 Bryan Herta D/H/F

Avg. Speed: 223.972 mph
Total Time: 2:40.7344
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 4th - 2004

The 35-year old has never shown the blindingly quick pace to be classed as a favourite for either the IRL or Indy 500 but ten top-ten finishes last season shows how dependable the American is. Likely to be driving for the winning team, but not the winning car.

#10 Darren Manning P/T/F

Avg. Speed: 223.943 mph
Total Time: 2:40.7555
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 1
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 25th - 2004

Only fellow Brit Dan Wheldon has completed more IRL race laps this season. Manning's consistency has helped him to seventh place in the current drivers standings but has yet to show race winning pace this year.

#70 Richie Hearn P/C/F

Avg. Speed: 222.707 mph
Total Time: 2:41.6477
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 5
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 3rd - 1996

Has not raced in the IRL since his unspectacular drive to 20th at last season's Indy 500. Has one Indy 500 podium to his name in the first IRL race, but it would be more impressive to repeat the feat against a field of better drivers.

#44 Jeff Bucknum D/H/F

Avg. Speed: 221.521 mph
Total Time: 2:42.5127
ROOKIE

Bucknum will become the 19th son of a former Indy 500 racer to compete in the event himself. The late Ronnie Bucknum started the race in 1968, 1969 and 1970. Made his IRL debut at the last round at Motegi, but crashed on the first lap on cold tyres.

#51 Alex Barron D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 221.053 mph
Total Time: 2:42.8568
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 4th - 2002

Barron led the Indy 500 with 35 laps to go in 2002 and went on to finish fourth -his best performance in three starts at the Superspeedway. Has been unspectacular in practice for this year's race, never beating an average of 222mph. Unlikely to trouble the front end

#15 Kenny Brack P/H/F

Avg. Speed: 227.598 mph
Total Time: 2:38.1737
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 5 Indianapolis 500 wins: 1st - 1999

File under life is ironic: former Indy 500 Brack makes his return from injury to replace the injured Buddy Rice, who became an Indy 500 winner when he replaced an injured Brack. Recorded the fastest qualifying speed in the field despite 18 months away from the wheel. Fast but a question mark hangs over how rusty he will be in race trim.

#33T Ryan Briscoe P/T/F

Avg. Speed: 224.080 mph
Total Time: 2:40.6569
ROOKIE

Toyota's star has switched from Formula One testing to the oval-biased IRL but has only one 12th place so far. Didn't make the field on pole day, and Ganassi are not the dominant force they used to be. Sadly has not shown the pace to make anyone think he's a contender.

#83 Patrick Carpentier D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 222.803 mph
Total Time: 2:41.5774
ROOKIE

Carpentier was the biggest name of those not to make the field on pole day, but has yet to shine in the IRL. Looked more at home in Champ Cars but is still a competent oval racer and can finish in the top half of the field.

#20 Ed Carpenter D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 221.439 mph
Total Time: 2:42.5731
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 1
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 31st - 2004

Carpenter is racing for his step-father's team, at his step-father's track, in his stepfather's series. No pressure then. But despite the help of IRL founder Tony George, Carpenter has yet to finish higher than 16th this season and practice form does not suggest this will improve.

#21 Jaques Lazier P/T/F

Avg. Speed: 221.228 mph
Total Time: 2:42.7277
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 3*
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 13th - 2000

Has actually raced in the Indy 500 four times, but last year's laps were officially credited to Robby Gordon. NASCAR commitments meant Gordon had to fly off during a rain delay, and Lazier stepped into the car before mechanical troubles hit. Goes into this weekend knowing he will start, but can he finish? 17th

#14 AJ Foyt IV D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 220.442 mph
Total Time: 2:43.3082
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 2
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 18th - 2003

Foyt has time on his side to emulate his grandfather's achievement of four Indy 500 wins. At 21, Foyt will be the youngest driver in this year's field. Troy Ruttman remains the race's youngest winner when he won the 1952 race at 22-years old and it is unlikely that Foyt won't threaten that record. 26th.

#25 Marty Roth D/C/F

Avg. Speed: 219.497 mph
Total Time: 2:44.0112
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 1
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 24th - 2004

The oldest driver in the field is also one of the most inexperienced. The 46-year-old has only started one Indy 500, crashing out while running last in 2004. Qualified on bump day for this year's event.

#41 Larry Foyt D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 219.396 mph
Total Time: 2:44.0866
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 1
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 32nd - 2004

Starting on the same row as his nephew, the NASCAR driver made his IRL debut in last season's event before crashing out. Will do well to finish.

#22 Jeff Ward D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 218.714 mph
Total Time: 2:44.5986
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 6
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 2nd - 1999

Fast on two wheels, Ward returns to the Indy 500 after two years away when he secured the American Motorcyclist Association Supermoto Championship, his record eighth career AMA title. On four wheels the former IRL race winner finished runner-up to Kenny Brack in 1999. Has not been fast at Indy this year, failing to top even 220mph in practice.

#91 Jimmy Kite D/T/F

Avg. Speed: 218.565 mph
Total Time: 2:44.7107
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 4
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 11th - 1998

Finished 11th in 1998, and engine dramas have curtailed two of Kite's other Indy 500s. Has not exactly been mesmerising in practice this year, so don't expect miracles.

#48 Felipe Giaffone P/T/F

Avg. Speed: 217.645 mph
Total Time: 2:45.4072
Career Indianapolis 500 starts: 4
Best career Indianapolis 500 finish: 3rd - 2002

Giaffone is better than his starting position suggests. Has not had much running this year thanks to a late call-up by AJ Foyt while out shopping. Bumped Arie Luyendyk Jr from the field to take the last slot but this is the same driver who finished fourth in the IRL standings in 2002 and could surprise from last on the grid.

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