Indy 500 2012: Drivers Who Could Shock the World This Year

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20:  Ryan Briscoe the pole sitter for the Indianpolis 500 and driver of the IZOD Team Penske car poses on the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 20, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2012 Indianapolis 500 has its share of dark-horse drivers capable of grabbing the checkered flag.

Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon are all prior winners, and are considered big names in Indianapolis because of it.

What about guys like pole-winner Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter? These racers, and others, are capable of taking home a first-place finish as well.

Let's take a look at these four racers and where they stand in this year's Indy 500 field.

 

Ryan Briscoe

Briscoe won the narrowest pole in Indy 500 history, and has had some success at Indy in the past. Both of these give Briscoe some momentum heading into Sunday's race.

Briscoe has been in the top six for points each of the last four years. However, he has not been able to grab a points title, and failed to get over the hump.

A victory in the Indy 500 would officially push him over the hump.

Briscoe has finished as high as fifth at Indianapolis in the past, but has not done nearly as well since joining Team Penske in 2009.

Briscoe's pole finish was incredible. He needs to ride that momentum to find himself among the contenders in this year's Indy 500.

Don't be surprised if he makes that happen.

 

Will Power

Will Power must have willpower if he hopes to win the Indy 500 this year (sorry, I had to).

Anyway, Power has never finished higher than eighth at Indy. He is starting in the same position that he has four years in a row, in the front three rows.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 18:  Will Power drives the #12 Verizon Team Penske 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

Power is notorious for winning poles, and also won six races in 2011. He has won at Long Beach, Birmingham and Brazil this season.

Power does not have Briscoe's momentum, but he is a skilled driver. He's won Mario Andretti's Road Trophy twice, and continues to improve.

Despite past struggles, Power will find himself in the thick of this race until the very end. He has experience, skill and a fair starting position.

 

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Hunter-Reay has enjoyed a lot of Indy car success in a short amount of time.

He was the 2007 IndyCar series Rookie of the Year, 2008 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and has five career victories.

Hunter-Reay is currently fourth in points this season after four top-12 finishes. He continues to improve his racing ability, making him tougher as the years move along.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - APRIL 29:  (Left to right) Takuma Sato of Japan driver of the #Letterman Laningan Racing Dallara Honda,  Ryan Hunter-Reay driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Dallara Chevrolet and Will Power of Australia driver of the #12 Team Penske
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Hunter-Reay's sixth-place finish at Indy as a rookie points to his ability. He ran an unbelievable race despite having no experience on racing's biggest stage.

He is more mature, more experienced and more equipped to challenge for the Indy 500 title this time around.

Expect Hunter-Reay to be in the thick of things until the very end.

 

Ed Carpenter

Carpenter is entering new territory at this year's Indy 500. He will enter the race for the first time as an owner-driver, under Ed Carpenter Racing.

Carpenter has 29 career top-10 finishes in his career. This is his ninth career start at the Indy 500.

LONG BEACH, CA - APRIL 14:  Ed Carpenter drives the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara Chevrolet during practice for the IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach on April 14, 2012 in Long Beach, California.  (Photo by Jeff
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Experience will pay dividends for Carpenter this year. He should be excited about entering this year's race as the sole owner, and driver, of his Chevrolet car.

Carpenter has never finished higher than eighth in the Indy 500, but he will look to change that this year.

Don't be surprised if he does.

Carpenter's experience and new ownership will make him a force to be reckoned with on Sunday.