2014 Indianapolis 500Download App

Indy 500 2014: Top Drivers to Watch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 17:  Helio Castroneves of Brazil, driver of the #3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara  poses for a photo for after qualifying for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 17, 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 13, 2017

The Indianapolis 500 kicks into high gear on Sunday, pitting IndyCar's top drivers against each other in the sport's most anticipated event of the year.

Last Sunday's Fast Nine qualifying event set the bar high with a highly contested battle for the first position. Ed Carpenter ultimately won for the second straight season, setting up an intriguing starting grid for the big race's 98th running.

Here are the top grid position slotted for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend along with a look at some of the marquee names to watch.

2014 Indianapolis 500 Fast Nine 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
IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com

 

Helio Castroneves

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 17:  Helio Castroneves of Brazil, driver of the #3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara waits to qualify for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 17, 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by J
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Established veteran Helio Castroneves must always be taken seriously as one of IndyCar's top contenders.

Currently ranked fourth in the standings, the 39-year-old can bolster his outlook by winning his fourth Indy 500 title and first since 2009. A victory this weekend would create 13 years of space between his first and last triumph.

While he has finished inside the top 10 in all four starts this year, he has yet to notch a victory, which begs the question of how much longer he can hold a spot near the top of the IndyCar leaderboard.

Always a dependable choice to finish near the top of the pack, Castroneves can cement an already incredible legacy with one more Indy 500 victory.

 

Ed Carpenter

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 17:  Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy's Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Dallara waits to qualify for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 17, 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jo
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

For the second straight year, Ed Carpenter will start the Indy 500 from the pole position after winning the Fast Nine qualifier. Let's see if he can capitalize this time around.

Last year, Carpenter finished 10th after winning the pole. He narrowly edged out James Hinchcliffe on Sunday's final lap to once again take it. As noted by IndyCar's Media Relations' Twitter account, that put him on a short list of drivers to ace the qualifier in consecutive years:

The owner of his team, Carpenter delegated races on road and street courses to Mike Conway so he can focus on ovals, his strong suit.

Conway made good on that decision by winning a street race last month in Long Beach, California.

As USA Today's Curt Cavin reported, Carpenter is not worried about entering the Indy 500 rusty.

"No one's raced on an oval since (the race at Auto Club Speedway), so I don't feel like I missed very much," he said. "I don't feel lacking or unprepared."

Carpenter can make a major splash on Sunday to show he still has it at age 33.

 

Kurt Busch

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 11: Kurt Busch driver of the #26 Honda is seen at practice for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Kurt Busch has a long day ahead of him, as the racer plans to compete in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.

If he finishes both events, he'll drive 1,100 miles combined. A NASCAR veteran, Busch is new to the Indy 500 scene, embarking on his first run after qualifying for 12th place with an average speed of 230.782 miles per hour.

He isn't transitioning smoothly to the new venue. On Monday, he crashed on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway course after losing control on a turn. He left the car under his own power and was cleared from the medical center. 

According to USA Today's Nate Ryan, the accident will not interfere with his attempt to complete the IndyCar-NASCAR double:

Busch did not sound overly concerned when speaking with ESPN.com's John Oreovicz:

It's nice to [crash] at an opportune time. We still have Carb Day to shake things down and get back in the groove. This created a lot of work for the Andretti guys and I feel bad for that. As a rookie, there's things you learn and put it up on the edge and get away with, and then there's times when it will bite you. It's just tough.

Holding his own throughout his busy day would prove impressive.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices