On the heels of Scott Dixon capturing the pole in the Fast Nine portion of Indianapolis 500 qualifying, the field and starting grid for the 101st running of the Indy 500 are officially set.
This year's field is stacked with top-level talent, and it is difficult to point to any single driver as a clear favorite, especially since a different driver has won the 500-mile race in each of the past six years.
Here is a look at how the 33 qualified drivers will line up for the start of the 2017 Indianapolis 500, as well as further analysis regarding some of the race's top contenders.
|2017 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid|
|18||Juan Pablo Montoya|
Top Drivers to Watch
For the third time in his illustrious career, New Zealand's Scott Dixon captured the pole for the Indianapolis 500.
His performance this year is undoubtedly his most impressive, however, as his four-lap average was the fastest in more than two decades, according to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Twitter:
Ind. Motor Speedway @IMS
That's one fast run, @scottdixon9. 4 lap ave. of 232.164, fastest since 1996! #Indy500 #FastNine https://t.co/yazbopPAky2017-5-21 21:37:06
Dixon was so impressive during qualifying that even fellow driver Graham Rahal couldn't stop himself from marveling:
Graham Rahal @GrahamRahal
Scott Dixon is the f'ing man. I guarantee you that car was extremely on edge. Wow.2017-5-21 21:36:08
Dixon is a former Indy 500 winner, having taken the checkered flag in 2008, and he has a long history of success at IMS.
Including his victory, Dixon has finished inside the top 10 on 10 different occasions in the Indy 500.
He came in fourth and eighth in the past two years, respectively, and based on how his car looked during qualifying, there is every reason to believe he will be in the mix and vying for a win once again this year.
Drivers from other racing series often try their hand at running for glory in the Indianapolis 500, and the biggest example of that in 2017 is Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard is a Formula One star with 32 career race wins and two world championships to his credit.
Despite having no IndyCar experience, Alonso made the Fast Nine and qualified fifth, which suggests he will be a contender Sunday.
Per BBC's Andrew Benson, however, Alonso is tempering expectations and not getting too excited about his run:
Andrew Benson @andrewbensonf1
Super performance by @alo_oficial to be in the fast nine and therefore first three rows. He says it's "not important". Very impressive, tho2017-5-20 22:48:45
While Alonso has plenty to overcome in terms of competing with IndyCar veterans, he is a longtime racer in his own right.
He also has quality equipment driving for Andretti Autosport, which should allow him to keep pace with the top competition.
With two career Indianapolis 500 wins to his credit, Juan Pablo Montoya is one of only two active drivers to have won the race on multiple occasions along with Helio Castroneves' three.
The Colombia native was victorious two years ago, and in four career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he has finished fifth or better on three occasions.
Montoya didn't qualify particularly well as he will start 18th, but he isn't overly concerned, according to Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star: "I don't play big into qualifying. I never have here. I proved it two years ago when I won, and after eight laps, I was dead last. It doesn't really matter where you qualify."
He qualified 15th when he won the Indy 500 in 2015, and an 18th-place start shouldn't do much to hinder his chances.
Montoya made his season debut in the IndyCar Grand Prix with a 10th-place finish, which should give him some momentum heading toward the 500.
With winning experience at IMS on his side, Montoya is among the drivers to beat provided he doesn't run into any mechanical issues.