After a chaotic May filled with mysterious and horrifying crashes, last-minute rules changes and uncooperative weather, look for calm and cool Scott Dixon to collect his second Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Known as the “Iceman,” the 2008 Indy champion has the talent, demeanor and car to add a second Borg-Warner Trophy to his impressive list of accomplishments and restore sanity to a sometimes disturbing month.
Coincidentally, Dixon won the pole in 2008, then proceeded to lead the most laps on his way to a convincing victory.
“If we could replicate 2008, that would be fantastic,” Dixon said after his pole-winning run.”That's the goal. It's very hard to pull that off. You know, unfortunately there's 32 other very good competitors out there and a lot of stacked teams, a lot of teams that this week we've been running with in traffic and they're very, very good.”
The transplanted native of New Zealand now living in Indianapolisanticipates a tougher race than in 2008, when he led 115 laps.
“I think the tow and the draft this year is bigger than any other year, so it's not going to be one of those years. When I won in 2008 you could break the tow after three seconds and drive away if you had good speed, and that's not going to be the case this time.”
Dixon, who’s driven for Target Chip Ganassi for his entire career at Indianapolis, figures he’ll have to push his Dallara-Chevrolet all day.
“It's going to be flat‑out. We need to try and stay near the front and give ourselves a good shot come the last 10 laps,” he said.
Here’s a look at the rest of the field:
Will Power: Reigning national champion focused on first Indianapolis 500 victory. Has not had the magic touch at IMS, though, with a best finish of fifth in 2009.
Simon Pagenaud: Earned call-up to Team Penske in offseason after impressive results with underfunded Sam Schmidt operation.
Tony Kanaan: Dixon’s teammate on Ganassi team rewarded the faithful with popular victory in 2013 in 12th attempt. Displayed big-track prowess with win in 2014 season finale at Fontana.
Helio Castroneves: Disappointing qualifying run for perennial pole contender. Three-time 500 winner (2001, ’02, ’09) is always a contender on race day.
Juan Pablo Montoya: 2000 winner has had a quiet month and seemingly has tailed off after impressive win in season-opener at St. Petersburg. Won at Pocono last year, another big, flat track.
Ryan Hunter-Reay: Defending champion thrilled the crowd with hard, clean duel with Castroneves last year.
Would be an upset, but could happen:
Justin Wilson: Surprisingly good qualifying effort (he’ll start sixth with fastest Honda) in one-off effort. Proven winner who deserves a full-season ride.
Sebastian Bourdais: Four-time CART/Champ Car series champion also had a surprisingly strong qualifying effort. Speedway has not been kind, with his best finish of seventh coming last year.
Marco Andretti: Lackluster at most venues, third-generation driver shines at Indianapolis with a second, three thirds and a fourth in nine previous starts.
Josef Newgarden: Part of the new face of IndyCar and now a proven winner after victory at Barber this year. Still learning his way around Indy, with previous finishes of 25th, 28th and 30th.
Ed Carpenter: Was going for an unprecedented third straight pole before crash during practice before qualifying. Butler grad would be a popular champion.
Graham Rahal: No sponsor has had more fun this month than Steak n Shake (build one in Canton, Michigan, please) and no driver has higher hopes than the son of the 1986 champ.
Takuma Sato: Another driver who’s been under the radar this month. Has had some good results, including a win at Long Beach, while driving for legendary A.J. Foyt. Crashed in Turn 1 trying to wrest victory from Dario Franchitti in closing stages of 2012 500.
Would be an even bigger upset, but could happen
J.R. Hildebrand: Almost winner in 2011 before crashing in Turn 4 on last lap. Part of the Carpenter/Fisher stable, has had a steady month.
Carlos Munoz: Second and fourth in two previous starts, Colombian is known for taking a brave line around the Brickyard.
Oriol Servia: Veteran always does a solid job, with a fourth and a sixth among his 500 finishes. Could land in the top 10.
Charlie Kimball: Fifth-year veteran drives for one of the Ganassi satellite teams. His best Indy finish is eighth in 2012.
Alex Tagliani: Former pole winner draws on heritage of two legends: the No. 48 of Dan Gurney while driving for A.J. Foyt
Sage Karam: Impressive debut last year (advanced from 31st to ninth) earned consideration for Rookie of the Year. Had some stumbles with Ganassi team this season, but appears to have righted the ship.
Townsend Bell: Color scheme and number (24, decked out to resemble Jeff Gordon’s number) make this one of the most distinctive cars in the field. This will be his ninth start.
Jack Hawksworth: Running full season for A.J. Foyt after rookie year with Bryan Herta. Another promising young driver.
Tristan Vautier: Last-minute replacement for Carlos Huertas, who was ruled out because of an inner-ear problem. Promising young driver.
Simona de Silvestro: Returns to Indianapolis as part of Andretti team after one-year absence. Former Rookie of the Year a fan favorite.
James Jakes: Back after one-year absence, he finished 15th and 20th in two other starts.
James Davison: Starts in the back after taking over car originally qualified by Vautier. Finished 16th in debut last year.
Conor Daly: Painted Petty blue and sponsored by a bacon company, this may be the most thoroughly American car in the field.
Pippa Mann: Determined Brit looks to improve upon Indy career average finish of 25th.
Gabby Chaves: Fastest rookie in first season with Bryan Herta’s team. Last year’s Indy Lights champion, won the Freedom 100 at IMS.
Sebastian Saavedra: Another Ganassi satellite driver, had his best Indy finish of 15th last year.
Stefano Coletti: Promising rookie for KV Racing Technology.
Bryan Clauson: Throwback driver in this year’s field with considerable experience and success in USAC. Sponsor, Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria, a fan favorite.
Ryan Briscoe: Former pole winner (2012) in tough spot replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe.
Photo credits: Scott Dixon and Will Power by Shawn Gritzmacher, Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Graham Rahal by Walter Kuhn, Indianapolis Motor Speedway