Indy 500 Qualifying 2014: Complete Starting Grid and Pre-Race Storylines

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMay 18, 2014

May 18, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Will Power drives through turn one during pole day for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The stage is now set for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 after an exciting Fast Nine qualifying round on Sunday, and there are plenty of stories to watch out for leading up to the May 25 race. 

Coming into unarguably the biggest race of the year in IndyCar, the standings are packed at the top. Will Power will enter the race as the points leader (149), but only one point back (148) stands laps-led leader Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Simon Pagenaud is six points behind the lead.

There are a wealth of other drivers not named above who are capable of making a championship surge with a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But, to start out, the entire field will be chasing Ed Carpenter, who won the Indy 500 pole for the second straight year. 

Here's a look at the entire starting grid: 

2014 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid
PositionDriverLap Average
1Ed Carpenter231.067
2James Hinchcliffe230.839
3Will Power230.697
4Helio Castroneves230.649
5Simon Pagenaud230.614
6Marco Andretti230.544
7Carlos Munoz230.146
8Josef Newgarden229.893
9JR Hildebrand228.726
10Juan Pablo Montoya231.007
11Scott Dixon230.928
12Kurt Busch230.782
13Jack Hawkskworth230.506
14Justin Wilson230.256
15Mikhail Aleshin230.049
16Tony Kanaan229.922
17Sebastien Bourdais229.847
18Oriol Servia229.752
19Ryan Hunter-Reay229.719
20Graham Rahal229.628
21Carlos Huertas229.251
22Pippa Mann229.223
23Takuma Sato229.201
24Alex Tagliani229.148
25Townsend Bell229.009
26Charlie Kimball228.953
27Jacques Villeneuve228.949
28James Davison228.865
29Martin Plowman228.814
30Ryan Briscoe228.713
31Sage Karam228.436
32Sebastian Saavedra228.088
33Buddy Lazier227.920

*Starting grid courtesy of

Let's break down who to keep your eye on and what storylines will emerge throughout the race.

Will Helio Castroneves Pull it Off?

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

In every Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves' 2009 victory, the one big-picture storyline continues to shine through—can Castroneves win his fourth Indy 500?

There have only been three to do so in IndyCar history—A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears—and if he joins their company, he'll tie the all-time record. The 39-year-old still has some good years left in him, so tying the record anytime soon will give him a great chance to break it in the years after.

Castroneves will start out fourth to open up the Indy 500, and he posted his excitement on Twitter:

A chance to join that elite company isn't the only opportunity Castroneves has in front of him. With 102 points, he's 47 shy of the lead, and a victory would move him into better contention for what would be his first IndyCar Series championship. 

Needless to say, a lot is on the line for Castroneves, and a victory would make for one of IndyCar's best moments of the last few decades. 

Can Ed Carpenter Learn From Last Year?

Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

For the second year in a row, Ed Carpenter will start out the Indy 500 with nothing but track in front of him. 

He hopes not to end the way last year's did, however.

Carpenter did lead 37 laps in the 2013 Indy 500 after winning the pole, but wasted little time giving it up and struggled to a 10th-place finish. 

After getting the excited feelings of winning the pole out of the way last year, the 33-year-old wasted no time looking forward to the race in the moments after his second straight Indy 500 pole, per Indy Motor Speedway:

Coming from the top pole position and winning the race is certainly easier said than done, but Carpenter won't have any qualms about his starting spot. Perhaps the experience of last year will allow him to learn how to better stay in front, and how to stay in contention even when the lead is inevitably lost. 

At the very least, Carpenter's pole position may allow him to finish well enough to earn his first points of the season. 

Will Any Contender Separate Himself?

AJ Mast/Associated Press

As discussed earlier, the standings are awfully tight at the top of the IndyCar Series after four races. 

Power, Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud are all within six points of each other, but a handful of contenders aren't far behind, as told by the updated standings:

2014 IndyCar Series Standings
RankDriverPointsBehindWinsTop 5Top 10
1Will Power149-134
2Ryan Hunter-Reay1481133
3Simon Pagenaud1436144
4Helio Castroneves10247022
5Scott Dixon10247022
6Mike Conway9356111
7Marco Andretti8960012
8Justin Wilson8762002
9Tony Kanaan8267003
10Sebastien Bourdais8168011

If Castroneves is able to win his fourth ever Indy 500, and one or all of the top three drivers finish poorly, he could make a big surge. Defending champion Scott Dixon, tied with Castroneves, will be eager to post an impressive finish to improve his fifth-place ranking.

But wait, there's more. Mike Conway, Marco Andretti, Justin Wilson, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Briscoe all have 80 points or more. 

LONG BEACH, CA - APRIL 13:  Will Power of Australia, driver of the #12 Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet, on the track during of the Verizon IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13, 2014 on the streets of Long Beach, California.  (Photo by
Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

At this point so early in the season, any one of 15 or so drivers have a feasible chance at winning the IndyCar Series. 

But with the sport's biggest names at the top of the points standings, it's more likely that one of them will start to distance himself.

Will it be Power winning his first Indy 500 and taking a better grasp of the lead? Will Hunter-Reay bounce back from his 19th-place start? Can Castroneves make history and thus make a push toward the top of the standings?

All of those questions will be answered come May 25. 


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