It’s known as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” and it rarely disappoints – the Indianapolis 500 is a highlight on many racing fans’ season schedules, whether attending in person or kicking back in front of the television on Memorial Day weekend. The storylines at Indianapolis Motor Speedway started before the season began with the announcement of the first-ever Verizon IndyCar Series race on the track’s road course, and continued with the announcement of new qualifying procedures for the 500. Simon Pagenaud won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10 and Ed Carpenter showed that he can rule any qualifying format for the Indy 500 with his second straight pole on May 18 – now these two and the other 31 drivers qualified for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 get to run for the Borg-Warner Trophy.
Many eyes will be on Indy 500 rookie Kurt Busch’s attempt at “the double” – competing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 on Sunday. The driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series tested at IMS last May before announcing his plans for “double duty” in March of this year; he’s driving the No. 26 Suretone Honda entry for Andretti Autosport at Indy. Busch, who qualified P12 for the Indy 500 and was the fastest rookie on the field, will attempt to complete all 1,100 miles of racing on the day – something completed only once before, by Busch’s Cup Series co-owner Tony Stewart back in 2001.
Helio Castroneves will also be in the spotlight at Indy, as the popular Brazilian goes for his fourth Indy 500 victory. Only three other drivers have achieved the mark – AJ Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977), Al Unser Sr. (1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987) and Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988 and 1991); he already has four poles in the race. Castroneves will compete in his 14th Indy 500 for Team Penske; last year, he qualified eighth and finished sixth, and this year starts P4.
Owner/driver Ed Carpenter, sitting on the 500 pole for the second-straight year, will be looking for his first win at his home track and his third series win as a team owner. Carpenter, step-son of former IMS president Tony George, earned his first IndyCar win in 2011 with Sarah Fisher Racing at Kentucky, then moved to his own team in 2012, taking a win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana to finish the season. After a winless 2013, Carpenter is splitting the driving duties in 2014 with Mike Conway – Conway on the road and street courses, Carpenter on the ovals. So far, the plan seems to be working – Conway won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.
In addition to Busch, there are six other rookies qualified for the 500: 2013 Indy Lights champ Sage Karam (P31), 2012 Pro Mazda champ Jack Hawksworth (P13), Martin Plowman (P29), Mikhail Aleshin (P15), Carlos Huertas (P21) and James Davison (P28). Last year’s Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Carlos Munoz (P7), who took the award as runner up in the 500, will be looking to improve just one spot on last year’s finish.
The 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 goes green Sunday, May 25 at 12:12 p.m. ET.