The final preparations for this year's Indianapolis 500 are being made Saturday, so all that will be left is to run the race. It's been an arduous journey from practicing to qualifying before getting here, but it all gets washed away once drivers start their engines.
This is one of the deepest and most balanced lineups in a long time. There's also been a lot of parity among IndyCar drivers this year, with no driver having won multiple races yet. Will Power and Helio Castroneves are the only drivers to win more than one pole though both will start behind Scott Dixon at the Indy 500.
All that fans can hope for is a thrilling race that provides a finish close to as good as Ryan Hunter-Reay's razor-thin victory over Castroneves in 2014. How a driver performs at the Indianapolis 500 defines greatness in IndyCar, so expect to see the best from all 33 drivers Sunday afternoon.
|2015 Indianapolis 500 Start Time and Viewing Information|
|Date||Start Time (ET)||Network|
|Sunday, May 24||Coverage begins at 11 a.m.; Race starts at 12:15 p.m.||ABC|
2015 Indianapolis 500 Field
|2015 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid|
|1||Scott Dixon, Will Power, Simon Pagneaud|
|2||Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Justin Wilson|
|3||Sebastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden|
|4||JR Hildebrand, Carlos Munoz, Ed Carpenter|
|5||Oriol Servia, Charlie Kimball, Juan Pablo Montoya|
|6||Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Carlos Huertas|
|7||Simona de Silvestro, James Jakes, Alex Tagliani|
|8||Sage Karam, Conor Daly, Townsend Bell|
|9||Takuma Sato, Pippa Mann, Gabby Chaves|
|10||Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti|
|11||Bryan Clauson, Ryan Briscoe, James Davison|
As the result of several crashes during practice leading up to qualifying, IndyCar announced drivers would have to decrease the aerodynamic trim, which is expected to keep speeds on the track under 230 miles per hour, per USA Today's Jeff Olson.
It certainly limited speeds in qualifying, as Dixon won with a four-lap average of 226.760 miles per hour. For comparison, Ed Carpenter won the pole last year with an average speed of 231.067 miles per hour.
As teams get accustomed to the superspeedway aero kit that takes advantage of downforce instead of horsepower, Dixon told Daniel McFadin of Motorsports Talk that it could change the way drivers approach things on the track.
"I think the racing style could change a little bit," Dixon said. "You could have someone very quick at the start of the stint, but have a massive falloff and not be very good over the 30, 40, 50 laps that they need to go on one set of tires."
Even if top speeds are slower than fans are accustomed to, it should make for a more exciting race as more drivers figure to be in contention coming down the stretch. It will also be interesting to see how teams deploy strategy as they get used to the different ways their cars handle on Sunday.
Will Power's Wave of Momentum
Even though IndyCar has been spreading the wealth with its winners so far this season, Power appears to be in line to break that streak.
The 34-year-old has yet to conquer the Indianapolis 500, but he is coming off a points championship in 2014, won at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course two weeks ago and qualified second behind Dixon in Sunday's race.
Power has had his struggles at the Indianapolis 500; Brant James of USA Today even did the math to illustrate how problematic the race has been for the Australian.
"In seven attempts, the Team Penske driver has never finished better than fifth, with an average result of 13.6," James wrote. "He led a career-high 22 laps last year, but none after Lap 57. He finished eighth."
Taking a glass-half-full look at those numbers, though, Power's recent results seem to suggest he's getting better. The reigning IndyCar champion finished in the top 10 at last year's Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 2010 and led the laps James mentioned.
Also in James' report, Power said, "In this series, the next box to check" is the Indianapolis 500. He did note that winning a points championship was more important to him because it's about being the best driver over the course of a season, but with that off his list, what's left for him to do?
The puzzle is set up for Power as he enters the 2015 Indianapolis 500, coming off a win in which he sat on the pole and qualifying second in this race. He's just got to put the pieces in place after years of struggles at this event.
The Perfect Story
Every sporting event has that one outcome fans and analysts want to see because it makes for the best story. Think of how appropriate it was for Derek Jeter to get a walk-off single to the opposite field in his final at-bat in Yankee Stadium as an example.
For this year's Indianapolis 500, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star has thought of the ideal scenario:
The guy now is Graham Rahal, and not because there'd be anything wrong with Marco Andretti winning the 99th Indy 500. But a confluence of timing, sponsorship, social media and race results has created the perfect storm for Graham Rahal as the guy who could nudge this race, and this whole series, off the back burner and closer toward the front of the American sporting stove.
It's David Letterman. It's Steak 'n Shake. It's Courtney Force and Twitter.
Some of those things need a brief explanation, so here goes. A fan photographed Rahal inside the drive-thru window of Steak 'n Shake, his primary sponsor, in the days leading up to the Indianapolis 500. He's engaged to Courtney Force, who is a huge star in the Funny Car series.
As for David Letterman, who is one of Indiana's biggest celebrities and just retired from more than three decades in late-night television, being a co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team makes the connection obvious.
Putting all of those pieces, at least from a marketing standpoint, into one ball that Rahal represents would make for one of the most memorable Indianapolis 500 winners in a long time.
The 26-year-old will have to erase years of pain at this race to make history. He hasn't finished inside the top 20 since 2012 and has just one top-five finish (2011, third) in eight previous runs at the Indianapolis 500.
Rahal didn't fare well in qualifying, as he will start from the 17th position though each of the last three winners have started outside the top 10, and two of the last three came from outside the top 15 to win.
Rahal won't be the favorite to win Sunday, nor should he be, but in terms of what the most marketable and best story for the Indianapolis 500 would be, it's hard to think of something better than him taking the checkered flag.