Normally heading into the biggest race of the IndyCar season, the drivers have already hit an oval or two before the month of May. In 2011, the drivers headed straight from a string of road courses, into the month of May and arrived at Indianapolis with no oval laps logged in this season.
As it stands now, Will Power leads the points standings. In four races so far this season, he has won four pole awards and two of the races. Power's strength is road courses, but in a Penske car, collecting his first oval win tomorrow at Indianapolis wouldn't be a huge surprise. After finishing second in points in 2010, this could be his year to dominate the standings on both road courses and ovals, and take home the Series championship. Don't expect Will Power to move far from the top after Indianapolis.
Dario Franchitti sits second in points heading into the Indianapolis 500. After collecting one win so far this season, Indy is just one place to grab yet another. Trying for a third Indy 500 win, Franchitti could win and take over the top of the points. He will definitely be one to keep his nose in the top of the charts no matter what after tomorrow's race.
Racing for Newman-Haas Racing, Oriol Servia will start third in tomorrow's race. He's had two top fives and four top tens in all four starts this season, and by starting on the front row at Indy he will have a good advantage of staying out of trouble and getting a great finish. He sits third in points heading into tomorrow.
Here's the tricky one: Mike Conway. After not qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, he will lose his fourth position in points, and depending on how the others around him do, could fall back a great amount. He already collected one win so far this season, and was strong heading into Indy before not making the field due to lack of speed. This could be a championship killer for Conway, but if he comes back full steam ahead in following races, he could easily pull back into the top five of the standings.
And finally, Ryan Briscoe, driving for the Penske team. He stands fifth in points, but will be starting 26th in the race tomorrow. Being stuck in traffic could result in a crash, but if he can make swift moves on restarts, he should be able to head to the front in no time. Briscoe is the only driver on the Penske team who does not have an Indy 500 win. A win could catch him up to one of his Penske teammates, Will Power toward the top of the standings.
Again, how each driver moves up and down in standings following the big race will have everything to do with how the others perform. A driver sitting say, tenth, in points could win, but move only three positions ahead in points if the rest of the top ten in points collect strong finishes. Either way, seeing how each driver competes in the Indianapolis 500 could give us a good reflection on how the 2011 Championship will play out.