Solid field expected for Indy 500
It has been a scramble in recent years to ensure that the Indianapolis 500 has 33 competitors, but that does not seem to be a dilemma now for the Izod IndyCar Series.
There were 24 car-and-driver combinations in last weekend's season-opening race in Sao Paulo, Brazil -- the second-most for the series since 2003 -- and all are expected to participate at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis Star
Additionally for the 500, there are six other confirmed programs and plenty more being considered.
The number of participants could reach 40, a number that hasn't been seen in years. Thirty-five is about the average for the Indy Racing League era.
Brian Barnhart, the race's chief steward, is known to worry about Indy's numbers during most off seasons, but he is not concerned at this point.
"It's not even something I've given thought to," he said.
The Speedway typically does not release the entry list, which is subject to change, until early April.
Besides what amounts to 30 confirmed entries -- Ana Beatriz has not been assured of having the ride she had with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in Brazil, for example -- there are about a dozen teams that could add cars. Here is how the list breaks down:
Confirmed programs that did not participate in Brazil (six): Davey Hamilton (Luczo Dragon de Ferran Motorsports); Townsend Bell (Sam Schmidt Motorsports); Paul Tracy (KV Racing Technology); Sarah Fisher and Jay Howard (Sarah Fisher Racing), and rookie Sebastien Saavedra (Bryan Herta Autosport).
Teams that were in Brazil that are considering additional cars (eight): Andretti Autosport (a fifth car); Ganassi Racing (a third); Panther Racing (a second); A.J. Foyt Racing (a second); Fazzt Race Team (a second); HVM Racing (a second); Conquest Racing (a second), and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (a second).
Teams not in Brazil that are expected to participate (five): Team 3G, Vision Racing, Rahal Letterman Racing, Hemelgarn Racing and Walker Racing.
If all three categories maximize their entries -- unlikely, of course -- Indy's list swells to 43.
At a minimum, A.J. Foyt IV will drive for his family's team, Ed Carpenter should be back with Vision, Fazzt has vowed to have two cars, and Rahal Letterman and Team 3G are Indy staples. That's 35.
John Andretti has said he will return, and a partnership of Robby Gordon and Derrick Walker seems likely. Graham Rahal and Tomas Scheckter figure to have deals, and Belgian driver Bertrand Baguette has said on his Web site that he will drive for Conquest, although that has not been confirmed by the team.
Yet to be decided are the number of first-day qualifiers on May 22, with eight rows (24 cars) expected to be selected. The last nine spots would then be settled on bump day, May 23.
Fifty-seven days until opening day. The count is on.