Thursday, May 21, 2009

Indy 500 Preview - 1st in a series

The 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 – Positions 33 through 23
Race Preview Edition 1st in a series

Sunday afternoon at 1 P.M. Eastern, the most famous words in racing will be heard over the P.A at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.” From there the 93rd running of the greatest spectacle in racing will begin in Speedway, Indiana. IndyCar Garage breaks down the field starting with the last 11, with highlights from this May and predictions of a winner’s circle trip.

Row 8 – Position 23 – Robert Doornbos
Doornbos is in his first season as a IndyCar series driver. He has a wealth of experience in open wheel racing, but very little on ovals. He is off to a strong start this year with a top 10 at Kansas. He has been helped this month by two time winner and fellow Dutchman Arie Luyendyk. He is driving for a respectable team in Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, which also has Graham Rahal starting in the fourth position. His inexperience at Indy will hurt him and will likely contribute to him not being a factor in the race. If this Dutchman can finish in the top 20, it would be a success.

Row 8 – Position 24 – Townsend Bell
Bell came to Indy with a second week deal , this forced him to start from the 24th position. He did find speed quickly, and that is due to his KV Racing team having a good month. Bell is a talented driver, that when give the chance to compete full time, he has had some success. He was the 2001 Indy Lights Champion and has bounced around with different series and teams throughout most of the decade. He needs a strong showing to rebound his career. A top 15 finish is within reach.

Row 9 – Position 25 – Oriol Servia
Servia was a transition driver from Champ Car and had a very good 2008 season for KV Racing. He finished 9th in points with four top five finishes. His 11th place finish last year at Indy was a very respectable showing. Servia has been in-active for the first three races of the 2009 season because no ride had materialized for him. Rahal-Letterman signed Servia for the Indy 500 only and he rewarded them by safely qualifying in the 25th position. If Servia wants to compete in more races this year he needs a top five finish.

Row 9 – Position 26 – Tomas Scheckter
Scheckter found a ride with Dale Coyle Racing in the form of Justin Wilson’s backup car on the second weekend of time trials. He needed no time finding speed, as he easily qualified about the 221 range. Scheckter is an IndyCar veteran and has two career wins since his rookie year in 2002. He has lead several laps at Indy, with career best finish of 4th in 2003. He hasn’t competed in a race this season and has no deals for the rest of the year, but don’t count him out. Scheckter often finds ways to make the most of what is given to him. He is a very talented driver, that if his car can last the full 500 miles and he avoids traffic, he could surprise some people. A top 15 is not out of the question for the native of South Africa.

Row 9 – Position 27 – Mike Conway
Conway is a rookie to the Indy 500 and to the IndyCar series itself. His best finish so far is 19th at Kansas. He found the needed speed on Bump day and secured one of the four Dreyer & Reinbold cars in the field. His in-experience at Indy showed on the second day of qualifications in the practice session. Conway had to be taken to the hospital because of a crash in turn two. He would suffer bruised lungs and a concession. He was cleared prior to the second weekend of qualifications. Conway and his team should benefit from being under the Dreyer & Reinbold umbrella of teams, but there isn’t much else to build on. Completing the full 500 miles would be a positive for what has been a roller-coaster month of May.

Row 10 – Position 28 – John Andretti
What a month Andretti has had in the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports entry. He needed every qualification attempt on bump day to earn a spot in the field. This will be Andretti’s third straight Indy 500 after a 13 year absence. He enters the race with more of an appreciation for being in the field than any other 500 he has competed in. With all of the time used for qualifications, it’s hard to imagine that his team will have much time for a race-setup. The good news is that he is under the Dreyer & Reinbold umbrella of teams and that should allow his crew to share race strategies. Andretti is a good driver and should be considered a threat to finish in the top ten.

Row 10 – Position 29 – E.J. Viso
E.J. had the un-pleasant experience of being bumped from the field on the second day of qualifications. He is a very young at age 24 and is just in his second season of IndyCar racing. He hasn’t had much success on ovals, which doesn’t bold well for his chances at Indy. His in-experience and middle of the road team will keep him from a top 10, but finishing the full 500 miles in the top 20 would be considered an improvement from last year.

Row 10 – Position 30 – Milka Duno
Milka will be making her third consecutive Indy 500 start from the inside of 10. She finished a respectable 19th last year at Indy and was the highest finishing woman in the field, as wrecks collected Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher. Her Dreyer & Reinbold team gave her a fast car on bump day and she rewarded them with four solid laps at over 221 mph. Her chances of victory at Indy are slim, but she could jumpstart her career by finishing in the top 10. She is slated to race a partial schedule for the remainder of the 2009 season, a strong finish could build some momentum for her team.

Row 11 – Position 31 – Nelson Philippe
This former Champ Car driver is considered a rookie this year at Indy, but has experience as he was the youngest ever (17) to compete in a Champ Car race before the merger. He has struggled to find speed all month, but found it at the right time on bump day. He is not a threat to win to the race nor does he have a ride for after Indy. Finishing the race for his HVM Racing team would be a huge accomplishment for this French Driver.

Row 11 – Position 32 – Ryan Hunter-Reay
Hunter-Reay had a very frustrating month driving for Vison racing. He struggled to find speed throughout the entire month and nearly missed the field by being bumped by John Andretti at 5:57 p.m. on Bump day. Lucky for Hunter-Reay is that got on the track at 5:59 p.m. on Bump day and put himself back into the field by 0.0324 of a second. For being the last qualifier he was award $50,000. Hunter-Reay is currently fifth in the points standings and had success prior to Indy. He needs to overcome the drama of Bump day and salvage a top 15 finish. He finished 6th at Indy a year ago in route to being named rookie of the year.

Row 11 – Position 33 – Alex Tagliani
Tagliani is driving for Conquest racing and was bumped on the very last day of qualifications by Ryan Hunter-Reay. He then replaced Bruno Junqueria in the other Conquest car due to sponsorship obligations. Tagliani will be driving in his first 500 and that means that his in-experience come race day will factor into where he finishes. He has had some success in CART/Champ Car, and that will help later in the season at some of the road courses. Tagliani experienced trouble on bump day, look for the same on race day.

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