Indy 500 Starting Grid: Drivers Poised to Make Big Moves on Race Day

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20:  Dario Franchitti waits to drive the Target Chip Ganassi Racing car during practice for the Indinapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 20, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis 500 starting grid is a jumbled mess that gives all 33 drivers the hope that this will be their year to conquer the most prestigious IndyCar race of the year. 

Even without its marquee star—Danica Patrick, who took her talents to NASCAR—the field is what makes this race what it is. It doesn't need that big name because the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 is always going to sell it. 

With the starting grid set, two things immediately jumped out. First, there really isn't a lot of separation between pole sitter Ryan Briscoe and Townsend Bell, who is in the 20th position. 

Here is a look at the drivers who are in excellent positions to make big push when the Indianapolis 500 kicks off on Sunday afternoon. 


Helio Castroneves (Starting in Sixth Position)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 19:  Helio Castroneves the driver of the Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske car prepares for his qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and part-time dancer will look to bounce back following the second-worst finish of his career in this race last year. 

Castroneves has had a strong season in IndyCar through four races. He won the 2012 Honda Grand Prix in March, the first race of the year, and has finished in the top four in three of four events already. 

He has gotten his swagger back on the race track, and the rest of the field has to know that just because he isn't starting in front of the field that he won't end up there by the end of 500 miles. 


Tony Kanaan (Starting In Eighth Position)

BIRMINGHAM, AL - MARCH 30:  Tony Kanaan of Brazil, driver of the #11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, waits in the pits during practice for the IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy at Barber Motorsports Park on March 30, 2012
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Unlike Castroneves, Kanaan has had an inconsistent season on the IndyCar circuit. He has one top-five finish and two finishes lower than 20th. It has not always been pretty to watch, but there is something to be said for what great drivers can do in the biggest races. 

Kanaan has had his share of problems at the Indianapolis 500 in the past. Those don't actually concern me too much, because a lot of them have been freak occurrences rather than an indication that he is a bad driver. 

If he can avoid that one big mistake, Kanaan is a force to be reckoned with in this year's Indianapolis 500. 


Dario Franchitti (Starting in 16th Position)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 18:  Dario Franchitti prepares to drive the #50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car during Indianapolis 500 practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 18, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Just because Franchitti is starting in the middle of the pack doesn't mean he isn't a threat to win. In fact, starting 16th only makes him that much more dangerous because he can just blend in with the rest of the field until he decides to make his move. 

Franchitti has been the best and most consistent driver on the IndyCar circuit for the last five years, winning four points championships and two Indianapolis 500 races during that span. 

He hasn't tasted victory yet this season, but he is getting stronger and more comfortable behind the wheel the deeper the season goes on. Franchitti had his best finish of the season at the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on April 29, finishing fifth. 


2012 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid

1. Ryan Briscoe

2. James Hinchcliffe

3. Ryan Hunter-Reay

4. Marco Andretti

5. Will Power

6. Helio Castroneves

7. Josef Newgarden

8. Tony Kanaan

9. EJ Viso

10. Rubens Barrichello

11. Alex Tagliani

12. Graham Rahal

13. Ana Beatriz

14. Charlie Kimball

15. Scott Dixon

16. Dario Franchitti

17. James Jakes

18. JR Hildebrand

19. Takuma Sato

20. Townsend Bell

21. Justin Wilson

22. Michel Jourdain

23. Simon Pagenaud

24. Sebastian Saavedra

25. Sebastien Bourdais

26. Wade Cunningham

27. Oriol Servia

28. Ed Carpenter

29. Mike Conway

30. Katherine Legge

31. Bryan Clauson

32. Simona de Silvestro

33. Jean Alesi