Indy 500 Lineup 2016: Starting Grid and Breakdown of Sunday's Thrilling Event

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2016

James Hinchcliffe headlines the Indy 500.
James Hinchcliffe headlines the Indy 500.Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday has few equals in the sporting realm.

It's not just the fast pace, risky overtakes and ever-evolving aerodynamics of the sport. The athletes involved—from James Hinchcliffe's comeback story to Ed Carpenter's legendary status—make for a deep and entertaining field.  

Qualifying was proof enough. The action was intense and came down to milliseconds to form the official starting grid,  from which each driver will then trek the 500 miles in search of a checkered flag.

Here's a look at the official grid:

Pole PositionDriverDriverPole Position
1James HinchcliffeJosef Newgarden2
3Ryan Hunter-ReayTownsend Bell4
5Carlos MunozWill Power6
7Mikhail AleshinSimon Pagenaud8
9Helio CastronevesOriol Servia10
11Alexander RossiTakuma Sato12
13Scott DixonMarco Andretti14
15JR HildebrandCharlie Kimball16
17Juan Pablo MontoyaTony Kanaan18
19Sebastien BourdaisEd Carpenter20
21Gabby ChavesMax Chilton22
23Sage KaramConor Daly24
25Pippa MannGraham Rahal26
27Matt BrabhamBryan Clauson28
29Spencer PigotStefan Wilson30
31Jack HawksworthBuddy Lazier32
33Alex Tagliani
Source: IndyCar.com

It's all about Hinchcliffe this year—and not because he won the pole.

He looked great last year in practice before a near-fatal wreck. 

"My last memory of the Speedway last year was a great one: I was driving around, my car felt good, and life was peachy," Hinchcliffe said, according to Rachel Cohen of the Associated Press.

As Cohen went on to point out, Hinchcliffe required 14 pints of blood while being transported to the hospital, so one can understand not only the hype for his return this weekend but his surefire contender status after putting on a show in qualifying.

While on the topic of qualifying, Hinchcliffe has some serious competition close to him right out of the gates thanks to Ryan Hunter-Reay. The winner in 2014 dominated practices this week, even besting the field in speed for an entire day, per Chris Hagan of Fox 59.

Not far behind those two sits Will Power. Improving finishes over the past three seasons (19th, eighth and second) has Power looking like a threat to steal the show.

Other notables are spread throughout the grid, though none is more important than Juan Pablo Montoya. Last year's winner is a force, as he is looking to win his third event and cement himself in history.

The task is tough, though, because Montoya has to start 17th after a controversial qualifying run ruined by a trash bag on the track, which is a lot more dangerous than it sounds when your car is gunning down the track at 230 mph.

“That was scary,” Montoya said, according to Jeff Gluck of USA Today. "There’s really one line there, especially when you’re in that trim in qualifying. So I just hit it flat, thinking it’s not going to do anything.”

If somebody can overcome the odds and make history, it's a driver as talented as Montoya. 

Speaking of history, though, this year's event is not only sold out, but the blackout at Indianapolis Motor Speedway also got lifted, which means it will make the rare live appearance on television in Indiana, as Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star detailed:

Gregg Doyel @GreggDoyelStar

Wow news from @curtcavin: IMS blackout lifted after Indy 500 sellout https://t.co/vrWbKOTM8t

The festivities start at noon Sunday on ABC.

Long story short, this isn't an event to miss. Not only is it one of the most entertaining sports around, but the names involved, epic storylines and the ever-increasing popularity capable of getting it in front of a live audience demand attention.

Just don't blink.

Stats and information courtesy of IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com unless otherwise specified. Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

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