The Indianapolis 500 is one of the hallmark events on the American sports calendar. Any question as to the reason why it's earned that status was answered during the final laps one year ago, as Juan Pablo Montoya edged Will Power by one-tenth of a second for his second Indy 500 victory.
All signs point to another highly competitive battle in the 2016 edition. Odds Shark noted there are eight different drivers with odds of 10-1 or better, but nobody is less than 6-1. That suggests there should be a wide-open race Sunday afternoon.
Let's check out all of the important details for the milestone 100th running of the Indy 500. That's followed by a look at the starting grid and a race preview.
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana
When: Sunday, May 29, at noon ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|2016 Indianapolis 500 Starting Lineup|
|1||James Hinchcliffe||Josef Newgarden||Ryan Hunter-Reay|
|2||Townsend Bell||Carlos Munoz||Will Power|
|3||Mikhail Aleshin||Simon Pagenaud||Helio Castroneves|
|4||Oriol Servia||Alexander Rossi||Takuma Sato|
|5||Scott Dixon||Marco Andretti||JR Hildebrand|
|6||Charlie Kimball||Juan Pablo Montoya||Tony Kanaan|
|7||Sebastien Bourdais||Ed Carpenter||Gabby Chaves|
|8||Max Chilton||Sage Karam||Conor Daly|
|9||Pippa Mann||Graham Rahal||Matthew Brabham|
|10||Bryan Clauson||Spencer Pigot||Stefan Wilson|
|11||Jack Hawksworth||Buddy Lazier||Alex Tagliani|
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James Hinchcliffe's story of perseverance will be difficult to top this weekend regardless of how the 200 laps play out at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Simply making it back to the race healthy after suffering life-threatening injuries during practice one year ago would have been a terrific accomplishment. Sitting on the pole with a legitimate chance to win one of the most prized titles in motorsports is nothing short of astonishing.
The 29-year-old Canadian is enjoying a solid stretch of racing, registering three straight top-10 finishes heading into the series' marquee event. He's never enjoyed much success in the Indy 500, however, ending up outside the top 20 three times in four appearances.
As he attempts to reverse that trend, Geoffrey Miller of Athlon Sports noted the reminder of what happened last year is still ever-present:
Power is another driver seeking his first Indy 500 victory. He's come close several times before, finishing inside the top 10 four times in eight starts, including a second-place result in 2015. Now the question is whether he can finally get over the hump into Victory Lane.
The 35-year-old veteran isn't downplaying the importance of winning the race, either. Jeff Gluck of USA Today noted the Aussie stated the event "is everything for me right now" while also discussing how it can make or break a driver's resume.
"You'd finish your career feeling really happy about it if you won that race," Power said. "And to win a race that size with that many people, to feel that feeling in Victory Lane, that would just be awesome. It would be something you'd never forget."
While that level of desire is constant across those without an Indy title, no driver enters the fray with more momentum than Simon Pagenaud. He's been spectacular during the early stages of the campaign, capturing three straight checkered flags after finishing second in the first two races.
It's allowed him to rapidly build a 76-point lead in the standings. Winning Sunday would not only give him the coveted Indy title, but it would eliminate any lingering questions about whether he's in line for a potentially record-breaking season.
Luke Smith of NBC Sports believes Pagenaud is in rare air right now:
Beyond that trio, it's tough to count out those who have won the race before. High-profile names like Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Montoya figure to find themselves right back in the mix as well.
The bottom line is it's a race totally up for grabs. As a result, there should be a high number of lead changes, and the entertainment value should be high; that's the most important thing in the end, at least from a fan's perspective.
Predictions: 1. Will Power 2. Simon Pagenaud 3. James Hinchcliffe