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 Position||Driver||Driver||Pole Position|
|1||James Hinchcliffe||Josef Newgarden||2|
|3||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Townsend Bell||4|
|5||Carlos Munoz||Will Power||6|
|7||Mikhail Aleshin||Simon Pagenaud||8|
|9||Helio Castroneves||Oriol Servia||10|
|11||Alexander Rossi||Takuma Sato||12|
|13||Scott Dixon||Marco Andretti||14|
|15||JR Hildebrand||Charlie Kimball||16|
|17||Juan Pablo Montoya||Tony Kanaan||18|
|19||Sebastien Bourdais||Ed Carpenter||20|
|21||Gabby Chaves||Max Chilton||22|
|23||Sage Karam||Conor Daly||24|
|25||Pippa Mann||Graham Rahal||26|
|27||Matt Brabham||Bryan Clauson||28|
|29||Spencer Pigot||Stefan Wilson||30|
|31||Jack Hawksworth||Buddy Lazier||32|
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:
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.