2019 Indianapolis 500 - driver by driver

David Malsher

 

33. Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing Chevrolet

33. Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

The fact that 23 local fans volunteered $100 bills to Ricardo Juncos yesterday – and now have their signatures on the bodywork of his now sponsor-adorned car – gives some idea just how much this little team and the 2017 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser have captured everyone’s imagination over the last couple of weeks. Bumping Alonso and McLaren out of the final grid slot may be the most famous thing they achieve, but a top 20 finish is also well within their grasp today.

32. James Hinchcliffe, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

32. James Hinchcliffe, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Hinch’s torrid relationship with Indianapolis Motor Speedway has continued this year, as he had a huge shunt on his initial qualifying run eight days ago, and a couple of brave tries in the back-up car didn’t quite get the job done. But the Arrow SPM team worked their butts off overnight and he delivered last Sunday. Both #5 and #7 crews have shown all year they’re not afraid to go off strategy to get into clean air, so an early yellow is likely to see the Canadian pit and try and earn the ultimate IMS redemption.

31. Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet

31. Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

It was a struggle for the Nazareth, PA native to get into his sixth Indy 500 and fifth with DRR, and he looked frankly spooked right up until his last chance when he delivered beautifully. He’s yet to complete all 200 laps of an Indy 500 but he’s fast and aggressive and could produce a memorable performance.

30. Pippa Mann, Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet

30. Pippa Mann, Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

One of the most popular Indy-only entrants due to her fan-friendly savvy, her determination and her genuine appreciation for the Indianapolis 500. Her DNQ last year would cause weaker folk to buckle but her burgeoning relationship with the Clauson family helped make this ride happen. It will be an uphill battle, but everyone involved has the grit to make it to the checkers and maybe even beat her best result of 17th.

29. Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

29. Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

A big shunt in practice dented the Swedish rookie’s confidence – not helped by a difficult and brief relationship with ovals in his part-time Indy Lights season of 2016 – but he says that self-belief has been returning. You can be certain that Chip Ganassi and Barry Wanser will put Felix on a great strategy to launch him toward the front, but he may choose caution over valor when it comes to wheel-to-wheel battles.

28. Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport Honda

28. Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport Honda Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Super-brave with a tail-happy car, the NTT IndyCar Series sophomore has had too many incidents this year but may well excel should the track get hot and greasy. A top 10 finish is feasible if Andretti Autosport can get him into the top half of the field.

27. Ben Hanley, DragonSpeed Chevrolet

27. Ben Hanley, DragonSpeed Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Another one of the shocks from qualifying, since the well-worn phrase about drinking from the fire-hose is very apt here. Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised though: DragonSpeed has started just two IndyCar races so far but each time driver Ben Hanley has been impressively close to the pace given his lack of experience in open-wheel at this level.

26. Jordan King, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

26. Jordan King, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

A one-off in a third car making his oval debut shouldn’t be this good, but Jordan looked comfortable and confident from the word go, and there seemed no doubt he was going to make it into the field comfortably. So it proved, and RLLR will ensure he gets good service at pitstop time. A top 20 contender.

25. Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM Honda

25. Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM Honda Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

The 2012 British Formula 3 champion and two-time Indy Lights runner-up will be making his third Indy 500 start, and both he and the MSR team have looked confident ever since their superb third place in the IndyCar Grand Prix on the IMS road course.

24. Matheus Leist, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

24. Matheus Leist, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Another IndyCar GP star, scoring fourth place, the young Brazilian also did a superb job a week later in qualifying considering his run came in the heat of the day. As per last year, the Indy 500 has been the team’s prime focus and it shows. Could cause surprises today.

23. Santino Ferrucci, Dale Coyne Racing Honda

23. Santino Ferrucci, Dale Coyne Racing Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Some have cringed as the young American has been spotted wrestling with the ‘Carlos Munoz’ line around the Speedway over the past couple of weeks, but he hasn’t stuffed it and the kid clearly has quick hands. He sounds somewhat intimidated by the track when he’s out of the car, but his performance in the car doesn’t show it, so if he can ignore the jitters ahead of the biggest race of his life, he should be fine.

22. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda

22. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner has never looked at ease in preparation for the 2019 edition of the race, but RHR is good at setting aside his issues and just getting on with it when the green flag drops. Super brave and incisive when battling, don’t forget ‘Captain America’ came from 19th on the grid the year he won.

21. JR Hildebrand, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet

21. JR Hildebrand, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

This is one of the most highly respected Indy-only teams of the last few decades and team owner Dennis Reinbold has shown faith not only in Karam, but also the extremely bright and quick Hildebrand. One can’t help but wonder if JR’s last corner/last lap disaster at Indy in 2011 will remain his best ever chance of winning on Memorial Day Weekend but a top five finish, even against the best of the full-time teams, would not be a surprise.

20. Charlie Kimball, Carlin Chevrolet

20. Charlie Kimball, Carlin Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Kimball used to be too aggressive for his own good, yet has always behaved and performed well around Indy, and his high point was third place in 2015. Don’t expect to see a similar result today, but do expect him to be battling his way into the top dozen.

19. Oriol Servia, Team Stange Racing with Arrow SPM Honda

19. Oriol Servia, Team Stange Racing with Arrow SPM Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

A smart and level-headed veteran who hops in a car and delivers every time, Servia has the ability to finish in the top five, especially with Arrow SPM engineering and strategic smarts on his side.

18. Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

18. Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

How many times have we trotted out the refrain that you can never count out Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing? They are always a factor, whether it’s through ambitious fuel strategy as per last year, or great pace and slick pitstops, as per most years. If Honda is on it, you can pretty much guarantee that so too will be CGR and its 2008 winner, whatever the track conditions.

17. Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

17. Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

One of the bravest qualifying laps last weekend saw Graham withdraw his original time and launch again, catapulting him from the penultimate row onto Row 6. If the car’s right, the son of the 1986 winner will be as brave as anyone and intimidated by no one. He’s always fun to watch around here, and it’s not inconceivable that he could win.

16. Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

16. Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Race engineer Eric Cowden understands Kanaan and they both know what is required to succeed at the Speedway, although desperation to succeed on one of the few tracks where the team is likely to be competitive can often bring too much pressure. However much 2013 Indy winner Kanaan tries to play it down, however, he has looked seriously quick throughout practice, an underwhelming qualifying lap being his only blemish. He has an outside shot to win again.

15. James Davison, Dale Coyne Racing Honda

15. James Davison, Dale Coyne Racing Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

One of the biggest surprises of qualifying having been nowhere on the no-tow speeds in practice, Davison has the talent and balls to get near the sharp end of the field but does he have the temperament to stay there? We shall know soon enough.

14. Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

14. Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

The question mark over Davison is similar to that over 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato but the difference is that the Japanese driver has shown he can finish the job. He looked nothing special in practice but as with Hunter-Reay, those considerations go out of the window when someone waves a green flag in front of him. RLLR has a superb bank of engineers, too, who have the ability to stay ahead of changing track conditions, and pitstops won’t be an issue either.

13. Marcus Ericsson, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

13. Marcus Ericsson, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Second fastest rookie of the month, Ericsson has taken well to his first encounter with ovals, and has learned well how to avoid the sticky four-wide situations that occur whenever inexperienced drivers are gathered together on one straight. If he keeps his head as usual, he could cause the biggest surprise of the race.

12. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet

12. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

If the Penske engineering staff has made the right changes to the car, Helio is obviously going to be a strong contender to take his fourth, to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the four-time winners’ bracket. But should he shunt as per last year, one wonders if Roger Penske will run him here again in 2020, and the shadow of that sword of Damocles may well be just enough to inhibit the Brazilian veteran.

11. Conor Daly, Andretti Autosport Honda

11. Conor Daly, Andretti Autosport Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

As well as his US Air Force car carrying one of the most striking liveries on the grid, Daly has been notable for his immediate integration into the Andretti Autosport camp for this one-off outing. He will be fast but also savvy, well aware that this is almost an audition for further Indy 500 and IndyCar Series rides.

10. Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda

10. Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

It’s time to end the family’s 49-year jinx at the Speedway, and Andretti has never been more composed than in the last couple of weeks. He very rarely makes mistakes and the same is true of his pit crew. One suspects his success or failure hinges on how good the Honda engines prove to be in race mode.

9. Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda

9. Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

The 2016 winner appeared to have the best handling car right up until Carb Day, able to track drivers closely through the turns and then time his passes to perfection. However, two days ago the #27 appeared to lose its mojo and look as much of a handful as anyone else’s car out there. But given his ability and super-aggressive ways, it’s hard not to believe Rossi won’t lead at some point.

8. Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

8. Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Like teammate Will Power, Josef couldn’t explain his sudden loss of 1.5mph between Saturday qualifying and the Fast Nine shootout on Sunday, but none of that matters now. He should be a formidable force today, and well capable of beating his best Indy result (third in 2016 with Ed Carpenter Racing). Which means he’s a victory contender… as he should be with Team Penske and strategist Tim Cindric on his side.

7. Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda

7. Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

Geoffrey M. Miller / LAT Images

For the second straight year, Seb is starting the Indy 500 from the third row. The four-time Champ Car title-winner is an underrated oval racer who knows what he wants from a superspeedway car and knows how to ask for it from race engineer Craig Hampson. His car has not looked great in traffic so far, but then again, few have.

6. Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet

6. Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

The defending race winner has not been as happy with his car this year, believing it’s been too loose in race-level downforce trim, but he’s as determined as ever and will be eager to get up front as soon as possible, so watch him at the start. The #12 crew can be relied upon to give him good pitstops, and he’s a master of saving fuel even on ovals. He may not be the outright favorite this year, but… maybe be should be.

5. Colton Herta, Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda

5. Colton Herta, Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

The youngest ever IndyCar winner looked as strong as his semi-teammates at Andretti Autosport during practice at Indy and then outperformed them all to become Honda’s top starter. His productive relationship with race engineer Nathan O’Rourke now faces its biggest challenge, but it’s not inconceivable that he could be in Victory Lane at day’s end.

4. Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet

4. Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet Scott R LePage / LAT Images

Scott R LePage / LAT Images

The slowest of the ECR cars being fourth fastest in qualifying isn’t altogether surprising but people need to stop being shocked at Jones’ rise to prominence. He immediately went well on ovals back in Indy Lights, and in his rookie IndyCar season he finished third in the 500 for Dale Coyne Racing. He will not be a pushover; this guy races hard.

3. Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

3. Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

Like teammate Jones, Pigot is a former Indy Lights champion, but it took him a little longer to like ovals. However, Spencer was fast at Indy last year, he’s been super-fast here this year, and he has an inner steel that makes him a strong fighter when his confidence is at a high. He will also race smart around his two teammates – especially as one of them is his boss.

2. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

2. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

Last year’s Indy 500 runner-up would be a hugely popular winner with the local fans and the three-time polesitter has a very fast car under him. The handling didn’t look so good in traffic during practice runs in packs of cars, but as mentioned before, no one looked very comfortable aside from Rossi and maybe the polesitter. Carpenter, we know, will show as much aggression as is required, and won’t easily let such a great chance slip by.

1. Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet

1. Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

For two of the last four years, Simon has appeared to have the best-handling Penske car, and it appears to be that way again in 2019, although the settled rear is perhaps a consequence of a understeer which can punish the outside front tire over a long stint. The other problem with a pole-winning car is that if it’s setup mainly for clean air, that can bite if you get shuffled back. But Pagenaud and race engineer Ben Bretzman will no doubt have a masterplan. Whatever the Vegas odds might be, Pagenaud is without question one of the favorites today.