Consider this: you've got 4 champions confirmed as returning (Castroneves, Franchitti, Wheldon, Dixon). You have Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, who are definite threats to win. You have the Andretti team (Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway) , all of whom have shown at least something at Indy, plus veteran John Andretti, who you know will find a way to make the field. Dreyer and Reinbold will have Justin Wilson, Davey Hamilton, and Paul Tracy. KV Racing looks to be resurgent with Tony Kanaan and Tomas Scheckter (the latter in partnership with Redline SH Racing) on board, plus the streaky duo of Takuma Sato and EJ Viso.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports could be one of the top teams this May. Not only do they have Alex Tagliani (lightning-fast here in 2010), but oval ace Townsend Bell is also going to run for them. Jay Howard (in association with Rahal-Letter-Lanigan Racing) is still looking to make his first Indy 500. Also an intriguing part of the mix is Foyt Racing, who signed Bruno Junqueira as their second car alongside Vitor Meira.
|Junky should have more time to prepare this year.|
Can you imagine being a rookie in this year's 500? Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra have competed here before, but James Jakes, James Hinchcliffe, JR Hildebrand, and possibly Martin Plowman or Pippa Mann are going to have their work cut out for them--then again, it's looking like every driver out there will, too. Still, you have to think at least one or two rookies will fail to make the field. I would have thought that last year, too, though, and look what happened.
The projected car count is already over 33. Still circling as potential drivers include former 500 winner Buddy Rice, Bertrand Baguette, Simon Pagenaud, and perhaps even Robert Doornbos. Wade Cunningham isn't currently scheduled to run Indy, but still might find a place. Alex Lloyd should be in high demand after his showing last year (if he doesn't end up in Coyne's other car for Indy). We know Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan will likely run a car of their own, Panther Racing will have someone in their second car, and Conquest should have their second car going by then. Foyt may also still have one additional entry. There are definitely going to be some folks sent home unhappy next month.
There are very few "weak" names or "field fillers" throughout that list. As the later entries to the 500 continue to file in, we'll probably see a couple of more surprises among the field. But there's no question in my mind that this is going to be a tough field--perfect for a very special Indy 500.
(Image courtesy of IndyCar Media)