Track Talk: Indy 500 Recap

Qualifying is done and the field is set for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. We look back at the stories from Indy 500 qualifying, and preview this year’s rookie class.

Sebastian Bourdais:  
A season that started so strong has come come to a grinding halt- literally. Sebastian Bourdais has had a dark cloud over his head ever since Phoenix. Things looked up at Indy, as he was quickest on fast-Friday and was one of the favorites for the pole- and he didn’t disappoint in Saturday qualifying. His first two laps had him well on the way to the top spot until his car stepped out and went nearly headfirst into the SAFER barrier. The good news? Bourdais will make a full recovery from pelvic fractures and a hip facture. The bad? His season is over. Australian James Davison will replace Bourdais for the Indy 500.

The battle for the pole: 
I said it in last week’s TrackTalk: The three drivers who were a threat for the pole included Ryan Hunter-Reay, Macro Andretti, and Scott Dixon. Hunter-Reay will role off 10th, Andretti 8th, with Dixon taking pole. Only three Chevrolet’s cracked the fast nine and surprisingly, only one of those Chevys was a Penske. Chevrolet’s Ed Carpenter almost upset the Honda armada and will start 2nd, with teammate JR Hildebrand one row back in 6th.

And speaking of Honda: 
Last week we noted that many in the paddock feel Honda has a slight HP advantage over Chevrolet. Qualifying results may suggest so, but Honda could also have reliability issues. Engine reliability hasn’t been much of a problem at Indy in years past. Is this a theme that could decide the winner’s fate on Sunday?

Fernando Alonso: 
A rookie in the sense that he’s never run Indy- nor an oval, this two-time Formula One champion needs little introduction. He’s been fast since May began, and has yet to put a wheel wrong. He was a serious threat for the pole last Saturday- can he parlay that into a win? Indy has a history of rewarding first-time starters with victories as both Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves can attest. The last time a Formula 1 refugee won the Indy 500? Look no further then last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi (Who, by the way, was also making his first Indy 500 start). Alonso’s biggest challenge? In my opinion it’s going to be pit stops. Dealing with a busy and tight, pit road, is something he doesn’t have to contend with in Formula One.

Ed Jones: 
Teammate to Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing and the reigning Indy Lights champion, Ed Jones has been quietly making his mark at Indy by putting in fast laps and staying out of the wall. He’ll start 11th with a time that would have put him 8thhad made the cut for the fast nine. The IndyCar media circus has been pleasantly surprised with his speed and maturity. Could he outrace Alonso for Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors?

Jack Harvey: 
2014 and 2015 Indy Lights runner up, Jack Harvey, is making his IndyCar debut with a team new to IndyCar (But definitely not new to racing), Michael Shank Racing. Michael Shank has had long-time ambitions of being an IndyCar team owner- a dream he almost realized back in 2012. If Harvey can convert his initial start into a solid finish, then he could be high on Shank’s driver list if he does run IndyCar fulltime.

Zach Veach: 
The six-time Indy Lights race winner is making his first Indy 500 start, and his second IndyCar start ever in a third AJ Foyt Enterprises car. While starting 32nd might not seem promising, Veach can make his mark by staying out of trouble and finishing the race. He might not be a favorite to win, but for a driver looking for a ride winning isn’t the only way to make an impression at Indy.

Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @VicGenova

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