Indy 500 2012: Why the Winner Won't Be from Row 1

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIMay 24, 2012

Ryan Briscoe will start with the pole position at this year's Indy 500.
Ryan Briscoe will start with the pole position at this year's Indy 500.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The starting grid for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race at the Brickyard is set, but the winning driver will not be one of the top three qualifiers.

The top three spots for this year’s Indy 500 are held by Australian Ryan Briscoe, 25-year-old James Hinchcliffe and American Ryan Hunter-Reay, but there’s reason to believe that none of these three will end up the victor when it’s all said and done.

Briscoe, who is starting from the pole position for the first time this season, has had an up-and-down year. In four races so far, Briscoe has placed fifth, 14th, seventh and 25th, respectively. It’s a good sign that Briscoe has habitually performed better in odd-numbered races, but his inconsistency is troubling.

Briscoe’s highest starting position before Sunday’s Indy 500 was No. 2 in the first race of the season at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Despite starting the race with the second position, Briscoe dropped three spots and finished fifth. Additionally, Briscoe has finished lower than his starting position in three of his first four races in 2012,  not a good sign in a pressure-loaded race like the Indy 500.

Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport has been more consistent than Briscoe this season—finishing fourth, sixth, third and sixth in four races, respectively. Despite consistently finishing in the top six, Hinchcliffe is a stranger when it comes to leading races. In those four races, Hinchcliffe’s only managed to lead two total laps. Again, not a good sign for one of the drivers in the top three spots on Sunday.

Hunter-Reay has had some good showings in his four races, but his first season win has eluded him. At this point, it’s fair to say that Hunter-Reay is in the best position of the three, as he is coming off of a strong race in Brazil at the Sao Paulo Indy 300. The American started that race in the fifth spot but came away as the runner-up in second place, earning him 40 points in the standings.

These three drivers will likely have good showings in Indianapolis, but I wouldn’t be shocked if all three fail to come away with a first-place finish.


Other drivers to look out for:

Marco Andretti (starting fourth)—Searching for his family’s first win at the Brickyard since his grandfather Mario Andretti won in 1969. Marco was runner-up in 2006.

Helio Castroneves (starting sixth)—A three-time Indy 500 winner can’t be overlooked.

Will Power (starting fifth)—Leading the 2012 IndyCar standings, coming off back-to-back-to-back wins and possessing arguably the greatest name in sports.