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

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Indy 500 Qualifying 2014: Complete Starting Grid and Pre-Race Storylines
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
Position Driver Lap Average
1 Ed Carpenter 231.067
2 James Hinchcliffe 230.839
3 Will Power 230.697
4 Helio Castroneves 230.649
5 Simon Pagenaud 230.614
6 Marco Andretti 230.544
7 Carlos Munoz 230.146
8 Josef Newgarden 229.893
9 JR Hildebrand 228.726
10 Juan Pablo Montoya 231.007
11 Scott Dixon 230.928
12 Kurt Busch 230.782
13 Jack Hawkskworth 230.506
14 Justin Wilson 230.256
15 Mikhail Aleshin 230.049
16 Tony Kanaan 229.922
17 Sebastien Bourdais 229.847
18 Oriol Servia 229.752
19 Ryan Hunter-Reay 229.719
20 Graham Rahal 229.628
21 Carlos Huertas 229.251
22 Pippa Mann 229.223
23 Takuma Sato 229.201
24 Alex Tagliani 229.148
25 Townsend Bell 229.009
26 Charlie Kimball 228.953
27 Jacques Villeneuve 228.949
28 James Davison 228.865
29 Martin Plowman 228.814
30 Ryan Briscoe 228.713
31 Sage Karam 228.436
32 Sebastian Saavedra 228.088
33 Buddy Lazier 227.920

IndyCar.com

*Starting grid courtesy of IndyCar.com

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
Rank Driver Points Behind Wins Top 5 Top 10
1 Will Power 149 - 1 3 4
2 Ryan Hunter-Reay 148 1 1 3 3
3 Simon Pagenaud 143 6 1 4 4
4 Helio Castroneves 102 47 0 2 2
5 Scott Dixon 102 47 0 2 2
6 Mike Conway 93 56 1 1 1
7 Marco Andretti 89 60 0 1 2
8 Justin Wilson 87 62 0 0 2
9 Tony Kanaan 82 67 0 0 3
10 Sebastien Bourdais 81 68 0 1 1

IndyCar.com

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. 

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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