Indy 500 2013: Highlighting Hottest Racers Heading into Prestigious Event

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IMay 21, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Charlie Kimball, driver of the #83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda, leads cars through turn one during the IZOD IndyCar Series 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Indianapolis 500, also known as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," is one of the most hallowed motorsports events in the world. Even the most casual of fans makes it a point to tune in when the world's best take to the starting grid every May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This year's field is loaded with top talent, from top to bottom.

Past champions, rising stars and veteran mainstays will compete for the right to chug a bottle of milk and take home the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Dario Franchitti won the event a year ago—his third career Indy 500 victory. He and Helio Castroneves will be seeking their fourth wins this upcoming Sunday, but there are a few hot drivers who will surely give them, and the rest of the field, a tough challenge.

Here's the official start order for the big race, courtesy of the official website of the Indianapolis 500:

Start Position Driver Car
1 Ed Carpenter 20
2 Carlos Munoz 26
3 Marco Andretti 25
4 EJ Viso 5
5 AJ Allmendinger 2
6 Will Power 12
7 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1
8 Helio Castroneves 3
9 James Hinchcliffe 27
10 JR Hildebrand 4
11 Alex Tagliani 98
12 Tony Kanaan 11
13 Oriol Servia 22
14 Justin Wilson 19
15 Sebastien Bordais 7
16 Scott Dixon 9
17 Dario Franchitti 10
18 Takuma Sato 14
19 Charlie Kimball 83
20 James Jakes 16
21 Simon Pagenaud 77
22 Townsend Bell 60
23 Ryan Briscoe 8
24 Simona De Silvestro 78
25 Josef Newgarden 21
26 Graham Rahal 15
27 Sebastian Saavedra 6
28 Tristan Vautier 55
29 Ana Beatriz 18
30 Pippa Mann 63
31 Conor Daly 41
32 Buddy Lazier 91
33 Katherine Legge 81

Now it's time to take a look at the hottest drivers of the 2013 season heading into the Indy 500.

James Hinchcliffe

There have been four IndyCar Series races thus far in 2013, and Hinchcliffe has won two of them. 

He's simply the hottest IndyCar racer in the world right now. He won at St. Petersburg and at Sau Paulo, defeating a loaded field on both occasions. 

Hinchcliffe was unable to complete the race in his other two appearances after getting stranded at Birmingham and crashing out at Long Beach. Basically, the way he's running right now, it's a good bet he'll either win the Indy 500 or fail to finish.

At least he swings for the fences, right?

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Last year's top racer, Hunter-Reay won the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last month and has been smoking hot in qualifying this year.

He won the No. 1 starting spot at Birmingham and at Sao Paulo, while earning the No. 2 spot in Long Beach. While it's true Hunter-Reay wasn't able to capitalize on his excellent starting position in two of those races, it's clear he and his crew have a car they like.

Alden Woods, a beat writer for IDS Sports, was at the track for Hunter-Reay's Fast Nine run and posted a nice clip featuring the pure speed he gets while on the track:

Alden Woods @ac_woods

Ryan Hunter-Reay's Fast Nine run at #PoleDay. #Indy500 https://t.co/zJAJZAKboJ

In five previous attempts, Hunter-Reay has never finished on the podium at Indianapolis. You can bet he's gunning hard for the chance to immortalize himself as an Indy 500 champ this year.

Takuma Sato

Sato earned his first career victory earlier this year at Long Beach in impressive fashion. He built up a nice lead in the latter half of the race and never let up. 

It was also an historic win, as Sato became the first Japanese racer to win an IndyCar series race, per ESPN Motorsports:

In addition to his big win, Sato earned a podium finish at Sao Paulo, finishing in second place behind Hinchcliffe. 

Sato and his crew really have things dialed in right now, and it'll take everyone's best effort to win this year's Indy 500. Starting from the No. 18 spot on the grid means Sato will need to race smart and fast from start to finish to come away with his second victory this year.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78


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