James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2016

Comeback hero leads field for 100th Indy 500

2016 Indianapolis 500 preview

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The one hundredth running of the Indianapolis 500 deserved a fitting story. And in James Hinchcliffe’s return from injury to take pole position for the race, it got one.

The popular Schmidt driver was left clinging to life after a vicious crash during practice last year forced a suspension arm through a femoral artery. He returned to the cockpit at the start of this season and dominated proceedings in qualifying last weekend, going quickest on both days.

On Sunday he will lead a 33-car field to the green flag in front of a capacity crowd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But then comes the much greater challenge of still being in front 200 laps later.

The contenders

Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske, Indianapolis 2016
Montoya won last year
IndyCar’s regular 22-car field has ballooned as usual to ensure a traditional field for its blue riband race. But even some of the one-off entries have genuine shots at victory. Townsend Bell in his Andretti-run car starts on the second row and Hinchcliffe’s team mate Oriol Servia has qualified strongly too.

The Penske and Ganassi cars which have won seven of the last ten Indianapolis 500s can be expected to come to the fore. Juan Pablo Montoya’s record at Indianapolis is extremely strong and last year he recovered from an early setback to take victory from team mate Will Power with a stunning pass in the closing stages.

While none of the Ganassi drivers made it into the top nine shoot-out for pole position, expect them to have a superbly honed car for the race. Scott Dixon’s fuel-saving craft will make him a contender, particularly if the race is short on caution periods.

But with five different teams taking victory in the last five editions of the race it proves you can look well beyond the usual suspects for a potential winner. Graham Rahal may be languishing down in 26th on the grid but Montoya was even lower down than that at one stage last year.

This is a gruelling race: the fastest ever edition still took two hours and 40 minutes to run. The opening stages are all about ensuring your car is in shape for the frantic final run to the flag and having the wisdom to know when to reach for the adjustment bar and when to let the track conditions come to you.

And then, when the final laps are ticking down, to make the big moves which could secure victory in a special edition of a very special race.

2016 Indianapolis 500 grid

Here’s how the field lines up for the 100th Indianapolis 500.

DriverSpeed kph (mph)Notes
Row 1James Hinchcliffe371.371 (230.760)Led at the start in his last Indy 500 before colliding with Carpenter. Missed last yer’s race due to injury.
Josef Newgarden371.275 (230.700)Promising star of the future won twice last year, looking for his first victory on an oval.
Ryan Hunter-Reay371.191 (230.648)The 2013 IndyCar champion won the 500 in 2014 but didn’t even lead last year as he finished 15th.
Row 2Townsend Bell370.922 (230.481)The Indy 500 regular also won the GT Daytona classic of the United SportsCar championship last year.
Carlos Munoz370.61 (230.287)One-time IndyCar race winner is regularly quick here. Started and finished second on his 2013 debut.
Will Power369.616 (229.669)Narrowly denied victory by Montoya last year. Needs to score well after missing first race of this year.
Row 3Mikhail Aleshin369.443 (229.562)Recovered from serious crash at Fonatan in 2014. Beat Daniel Ricciardo to 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 title.
Simon Pagenaud368.763 (229.139)Dominating the championship after finally winning with Penske. A win on an oval is what he needs next.
Helio Castroneves368.724 (229.115)Series veteran is a three-times Indianapolis 500 winner, most recently in 2009.
Row 4Oriol Servia368.635 (229.060)Highly experienced driver ensured all three of Sam Schmidt’s cars start in the top ten.
Alexander Rossi367.691 (228.473)The Manor reserve driver was knocked out of the pole shoot-out on the last lap, but remains top rookie.
Takuma Sato366.976 (228.029)Nearly won in 2012 – he crashed trying a last-lap pass on Dario Franchitti – but hasn’t been close since.
Row 5Scott Dixon366.915 (227.991)Survived engine change scare in qualifying and despite lowly qualifying is expected to contend.
Marco Andretti366.88 (227.969)Engine problems blunted his qualifying effort too. Sam Hornish pipped him to victory by 0.06s in 2006.
JR Hildebrand366.73 (227.876)Deserves a chance to erase the memory of his 2011 nightmare, losing victory in a last-lap crash.
Row 6Charlie Kimball366.643 (227.822)Was in the hunt for victory in the closing stages last year and should have a strong car again.
Juan Pablo Montoya366.421 (227.684)Took second win in three Indy 500 starts last year having fallen to 30th after being hit by a rival.
Tony Kanaan366.012 (227.430)Fan favourite took overdue win in the fastest ever Indianapolis 500 in 2013, averaging 301.644kph.
Row 7Sebastien Bourdais366.009 (227.428)More at home on IndyCar’s many road and street tracks but won on the short Milwaukee oval last year.
Ed Carpenter365.684 (227.226)A surprisingly lowly starting position for the two-times pole sitter but he could be a dark horse for victory.
Gabby Chaves365.629 (227.192)The 2014 Indy Lights champion is only doing a partial IndyCat campaign this year.
Row 8Max Chilton364.815 (226.686)The former Marussia driver raced in Indy Lights last year, winning on the Iowa oval for newcomers Carlin.
Sage Karam364.413 (226.436)A third Indy 500 start for the 2013 Indy Lights champion. Crashed at the start last year.
Conor Daly364.213 (226.312)If his car makes it to the start it’ll be an improvement on his incredible misfortune last year.
Row 9Pippa Mann363.72 (226.006)Caught up in a pit lane crashed which involved three of Coyne’s cars last year, but still finished.
Graham Rahal363.465 (225.847)Struggled with his car’s set-up in qualifying and starts further back than he should.
Matt Brabham363.271 (225.727)First appearance for the third-generation Brabham driver who has also raced in Formula E.
Row 10Bryan Clauson362.53 (225.266)Another regular one-off Indy 500 starter. Clauson crashed early on in last year’s race.
Spencer Pigot361.855 (224.847)Pro Mazda and Indy Lights titles mark him out as one to watch for the future. This is his first Indy 500.
Stefan Wilson361.461 (224.602)Driving in memory of his brother Justin, who led this race last year but was killed at Pocono.
Row 11Jack Hawksworth361.451 (224.596)Hasn’t been able to build on a promising first season of IndyCar in 2014 with Herta. Now at Foyt.
Buddy Lazier357.521 (222.154)Won this race 20 years ago and first competed at Indianapolis in 1989.
Alex TaglianiNo timeA crash kept the 2012 pole sitter from qualifying. Expect him to make gains at the start.

2016 Indianapolis 500 Spotters’ Guide

Watch and follow the 2015 Indianapolis 500

For those in the UK the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on BT Sport. I will be part of the British commentary team alongside Ben Evans and Oliver Webb providing continuous coverage throughout the green-flag running. Coverage starts at 3:30pm on Sunday and the race begins at 5:12pm.

As with every round of the IndyCar championship we’ll be following all the action on F1 Fanatic Live as well.

Over to you

Who’s your tip for victory in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500? Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 22 comments on “Comeback hero leads field for 100th Indy 500”

    1. Good Canadian boy on the pole. Long race though but off to the best start possible for the race on Sunday.

      1. I’m not much of a flag waver, but his pole laps put a big smile on my Canuck face :)

        1. Hey I think the pic of ‘our’ Gilles says enough.

    2. this will be a good one to watch…

    3. Montoya could have qualified better just by losing some weight, the dude has gotten huge!

      1. Lol he probably has the lightest car by miles just to even out his plump ass

        1. Lol well you do want your ballast at the lowest point possible on the car…er…on the driver.

    4. Let’s play ‘Spot the female driver’ using just the tiny preview pics.

      Looks like it’ll take a few more years before motor sports reach the 21st century.

      1. well, Pippa Mann is racing to support Susan G. Komen, a breast cancer foundation and its color is pink. So it’s fitting.

      2. Or maybe there are just no good female drivers at the moment?

      3. @thetick @paeschli There was supposed to be an all female run team (Grace Autosport) with Katherine Legge as the driver but Dallara don’t have any additional 2016 spec cars & none of the existing teams were willing to lease them any of there spares.

        Simona De Silvestro was interested but couldn’t land a ride because she doesn’t bring any sponsors.

    5. I’ll watch it, but I’ll probably get very bored after a while. I always do the same with the 500. I always try, but I just don’t get oval racing.

      1. My tip would be to fast forward the first 2 and a half hours, then sit back and enjoy the last 15 mins of (usually) cracking racing

        1. I hope there isn’t yellow flag finish for this year..(last two years were awesome)

        2. It reminds me when I was a child playing football. You’d play for hours, the score would be 21-13 to your team. Then someone would shout ‘winning goal’ and all the work done to get your lead would be eradicated… the other team would score and your team would lose.

          So in summary, I don’t get the attraction either.

      2. One advantage to ovals is that when you are there you get to see everything that is going on, at all times.

    6. Let’ just hope the race is as good as the Freedom 100. That was a cracking race, the lead chanced almost every lap.

    7. Can’t stand those spec cars, bring back CART.

    8. This better be a good race. I’ll be sitting in turn 4 when the green flag flies.

    9. Kurt (@dangerpaws)
      28th May 2016, 1:01

      Hinch on the pole, a year after he almost died at this track is a great story. Amazing job James!
      Can’t wait for the race….

    10. I always find it a bit ironic that Indy and Monaco are held on the same weekend. Polar opposites of open wheel racing, Monaco is often over after the first few meters, and Indy isn’t settled until the last few.

      There have been years when the drama of Monaco clearly surpassed anything Indy could offer, but mostly in recent years, I’d have to say Indy gets the edge for me. Coming down to the last laps with a great battle at Indy can be hugely intense. With the great field this year I don’t expect any less.

      1. @gitanes Monaco traditionally used to be held the weekend before Indy….. But around 1995 Bernie decided to move Monaco to the same weekend in part to discourage F1 drivers from looking at running at Indy.

    Comments are closed.