When the top drivers in IndyCar travel to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2014 Indy 500, there will be several unheralded drivers with a legitimate chance to steal the show and kiss the yard of bricks.
With two NASCAR veterans like Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya in the field this year, the level of competition will be amplified as these aggressive drivers try their hand at one of the most famous races.
Here are the contenders fans should be watching in Sunday’s big race.
When Kurt Busch starts the Indy 500 on Sunday, he will be going for one of the most impressive weekends in history. Not only will he be racing in the 500-mile race earlier in the day, but he will also be racing in the 600-mile NASCAR race at Charlotte later that night.
The double-duty adventure almost didn’t come to fruition, though, as Busch was involved in a serious wreck. Lucky for the team and the fans, Busch was cleared on Monday by medical personnel:
Fellow Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe told Nate Ryan of USA Today about Busch and what he brings to the table for his team at this weekend’s race:
No, no, that's clearly the Kurt of old. The guy we've had has just been awesome. It's been really cool seeing someone with as much racing knowledge and experience as he has. He's brought a lot to the table in that respect. Some of the philosophies are very different, but you're taking a rookie who happens to have a billion races under his belt.
His knowledge of car physics and vehicle dynamics is stellar. He's really fun to work with and really receptive to things we've been saying and asking a lot of questions. He's done a phenomenal job.
There is no question that it will be difficult for Busch to make his way through the field in a car he is not accustomed to, but the laps of practice he is trying to get in this week will be incredibly important to how he runs on Sunday at Indianapolis.
While few fans are expecting much out of Busch, his ability behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup Series car should be an indication of his ability to get around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway toward the front of the pack.
Don’t be shocked by a top-10 finish.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Another veteran NASCAR driver turning his attention on the Indy 500 is Juan Pablo Montoya.
Unlike Busch, Montoya spent time in IndyCar before making the transition to the Sprint Cup Series. With a previous Indy 500 win under his belt, the Team Penske driver will be looking to add another.
Despite early struggles on the track, Montoya talked about the improvements his team made via Twitter:
Well I guess I redeem myself today. 2nd fastest for the day and start P10. Got to work hard tomorrow to get the car where it needs to be.— Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmontoya) May 18, 2014
While his week didn’t start off the way he would have liked, Ryan commented on the positive attitude Montoya has shown:
Juan Pablo Montoya disappointed with quals but borderline giddy talking Indianapolis and the race. Can tell he's happy to be here. #indycar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 18, 2014
Montoya won his Indy 500 in 2000 and has failed to find that success since. With a stacked field of drivers this year, there are few experts who believe the No. 2 car will be in the lead when the checkered flag falls.
With experience on the track, a great car and a team around him that will do everything they can to get him into Victory Lane, motorsports fans must be watching for Montoya on Sunday.
Stats via IndyCar.com.