The Indy 500 is arguably the most prestigious race in the world, and when the IndyCar Series invades the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, the focus will be on serious contenders with porous starting positions and how they make it through the field.
All of the following racers had mediocre qualifying attempts, but will show why they are heralded as some of the best in the sport by overcoming the adversity and ending up toward the front of the pack.
All times and information via the Official Indy 500 website.
Starting Position: 18th
After running a few really strong practice laps, the rain hit Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday morning, delaying the start of qualifying and taking away the momentum IZOD IndyCar Series point leader Takuma Sato had been building.
Sato posted an impressive 226.6 MPH lap during the morning practice, but with the track undergoing changes with the added moisture from the rain and the heat of the jet dryers, the AJ Foyt Racing star only managed a four-lap average speed of 225.892 MPH.
That’s only good enough for 18th overall starting spot in the 2013 Indy 500.
While Sato will have to work his way through the field, the Japanese star knows what it takes to contend for the win at Indianapolis. Sato was in second place on the last lap of the 2012 race when he tried to make a pass on eventual winner Dario Franchitti and crashed.
After coming so close last year, expect Sato to be hungrier than ever.
Predicted Finish: Fourth
Starting Position: 26th
While Graham Rahal may only be 24 years old, his lineage of racers and his experience in the Indy 500 makes him a serious favorite. With five career starts in the race already—including a third-place finish in 2011—the young star is a favorite to win it all.
Despite starting all the way back in 26th, the IndyCar sensation has the skill, pit crew and equipment to maneuver through the field in the long race and eventually find himself in contention for the win by the end of the day.
Rahal was a favorite to contend on Sunday anyway, but with his father Bobby calling the shots as the team owner and crew chief Matt Swan making things happen on the track, racing fans are expecting to see the star fighting for the win on the last lap.
Predicted Finish: Eighth
Starting Position: 25th
While the expectations for Josef Newgarden aren’t as high as many of the other drivers in the field, the 22-year-old American has taken the IndyCar series by storm since stepping into the major leagues last year.
Newgarden had a rough race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2012, finishing in 25th after starting a very respectable seventh. The hope from the young driver and the entire Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team is that the car is strong enough to work through traffic and be there at the end to contend for a top-10 finish.
If Newgarden can sneak out a 10th-place finish or better in just his second Indy 500 start, there is little doubt that this race would be deemed a success for the Tennessee native and his team.
Predicted Finish: 10th