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)
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)
Which Driver Will Have The Best Finish At The 2012 Indianapolis 500?
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)
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