Indy 500 Starting Grid: Top Contenders to Watch for in Sunday's Historic Race

Austin GreenCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 19:  Marco Andretti the driver of the Team RC Cola car prepares for his qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Clear your schedule and prepare your living room accordingly, because the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is mere hours away.

The 96th running of the Indy 500 will begin at noon Eastern on Sunday, with 33 of the world's best IndyCar drivers vying for a spot in the history books.

Last year's winner, the late Dan Wheldon (R.I.P.), will unfortunately not be around to defend his title, so we will have a new champ at this year's running. Here are the top contenders to win some well-deserved bragging rights and that shiny Borg-Warner Trophy.

For the full starting grid, click here.

Helio Castroneves

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 25:  Helio Castroneves of Brazil driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet leads Ryan Hunter-Reay driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Dallara Chevrolet during final practice on Carb Day for the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, 2012
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The Brazilian is always a threat at the Indy 500, as he has won the historic race three times in his career.

Castroneves took home the trophy in 2001, 2002 and 2009, and I wouldn't be surprised if he added a fourth to his collection on Sunday.

Castroneves already has one win this season (Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg), and he's in a good starting spot at No. 6.

Look for him to use his knowledge of the track and general driving skill to put himself in contention down the stretch. 


Marco Andretti

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - APRIL 28:  Marco Andretti driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport Dallara Chevrolet during practice for the IndyCar Series Sao Paulo indy 300 on April 28, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The young Andretti will be looking to become the second member of his family to win the Indy 500, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Mario.

He's come close to claiming the title before, registering three top-three finishes, including his second-place finish as a rookie in 2006. In that race, he lost by just 0.0635 of a second to champion Sam Hornish Jr.

Andretti hasn't done much this season, but he's proved before that he knows how to succeed at Indy. Don't be shocked if the young man with the great driving genes comes away with the victory.


Ryan Briscoe

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 26:  Ryan Briscoe of Australia driver of the Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet and his wife Nicole Briscoe wave to fans during the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in the streets of Indianapolis on May 26, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Briscoe secured the pole position for this year's race after stringing together a four-lap average of 226.484. This is good news for the Australian, as 20 pole holders have gone on to win the race.

Briscoe has also had some prior success at the Indy 500, registering one top-10 (2005) and one top-five (2007) finish. Since then, however, he's failed to finish better than 15th.

He'll look to change that on Sunday, when he should be considered one of the favorites.