The Indianapolis 500 brings out some of the best drivers from around the world each year, and 2014 is no exception. With six former winners, seven rookies and most of the major racing series in the world represented on the 33-driver entry list, the 98th running of the Indy 500 will be a melting pot of auto racing.
Helio Castroneves is the most notable of the former winners entered in the race, as he’s going for an historic win – his fourth. Only three other drivers have achieved the mark, and they were some of the best drivers in world – AJ Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977), Al Unser Sr. (1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987) and Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988 and 1991). Castroneves, competing in his 14th Indy 500 for Team Penske, already has four poles in the race, with an average starting position of 5.9 and an average finish of 7.5.
Another driver among the past winners entered – which also includes Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Buddy Lazier – that will draw some attention during the qualification process is Jacques Villeneuve, winner of the race in 1995. Villeneuve also won the CART championship in 1995, then went on to win the Formula One World Championship in 1997. Villeneuve has two Indy 500 starts, resulting in a runner-up finish in 1994, when he was named the Rookie of the Year for the race, and his 1995 win. Never one to sit still, the 43-year-old driver has also ventured into sports car racing and NASCAR.
Speaking of NASCAR, 2004 Cup Series champ Kurt Busch will make his Indy 500 debut this year for Andretti Autosport. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who has also competed in the Pro Stock division in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, tested with the Andretti team last season, and will attempt to become the fourth driver to participate in “double duty,” competing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day. John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Busch’s team’s co-owner Tony Stewart have all done “double duty,” with only Stewart completing all 1,100 miles in 2001, finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte. Busch has four top 10 finishes in his 13 previous Cup Series starts at “the Brickyard.”
Busch will be joined by six other rookies in this year’s 500: 2013 Indy Lights champ Sage Karam, 2012 Pro Mazda champ Jack Hawksworth (who is running the entire IndyCar Series season), Martin Plowman, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Huertas and James Davison. Last year’s Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Carlos Munoz, returns as Busch’s teammate at Andretti Autosport as a rookie in the series. The 22-year-old, who was runner up in last year’s 500, has had a tough time in his first full season: while he has a season-best finish of third in Long Beach, he hasn’t finished better than 17th in the other three races, and was involved in the starting flag wreck at last weekend’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Qualifying for the 98th running of the Indy 500 begins Saturday, May 17 at 11 a.m. ET and continues Sunday, May 18 at 10:15 a.m. ET.