Thursday, May 4, 2017

Indianapolis 500 Entry List Update: May 2017

We have made it. May is here and we are just over a week and a half away from the first practice session for the 101st Indianapolis 500. The entry list is pretty much set and it is going to be 33 cars. No more. Hopefully no less but you do have a handful of entries on shoestring budgets so let's hope nobody has a first-hand encounter with the barrier.

Let's break it down. The regular cast of characters will be there, all 21 full-time IndyCar teams, the 13 Honda teams and the eight Chevrolet teams.

To start with the Honda one-offs we have to start with the biggest name on the ticket, the two-time world drivers' champion Fernando Alonso with Andretti Autosport. Alonso completed rookie orientation at his test session on Wednesday and completed 110 laps. Joining Alonso and Andretti's four full-time entries will be two-time Indy Lights vice-champion Jack Harvey, whose entry will be a collaboration between Andretti Autosport and Michael Shank Racing.

Oriol Servià was one of the earliest Indianapolis 500 entries announced and should he take the green flag, this year's Indianapolis 500 will mark the 200th start of the Catalan driver's IndyCar career. Servià has also been confirmed for the Belle Isle round the weekend after the Indianapolis 500.

Jay Howard was another early Indianapolis 500 entry announced and the 2006 Indy Lights champion will drive the #77 Tony Stewart Foundation Team One Cure Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. This will be Howard's first time in a car since 2011 and his third career attempt at the Indianapolis 500. He did not qualify in 2010 and had an accident after 60 laps in the 2011 race.

The final additional Honda for the Indianapolis 500 will be Pippa Mann as she returns for her sixth Indianapolis 500 attempt. This will be her fifth consecutive year with Dale Coyne Racing at the Speedway. Last year, Mann scored a career-best 18th-place finish in the Indianapolis 500.

The five additional Honda entries bring the total up to 26 cars.

Juan Pablo Montoya was arguably the first of the additional Indianapolis 500 entries announced and he will drive for Team Penske. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner will also run the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 13th.

Sage Karam returns for his fourth Indianapolis 500 attempt and third with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Karam has spent the 2017 season driving for Lexus' factory GT Daytona program in IMSA. Karam will have a teammate of sorts as Dreyer & Reinbold has a technical alliance with the newly-formed Harding Racing and Gabby Chaves will be driving the #88 Harding Racing Chevrolet. This will be Chaves' third Indianapolis 500 attempt and it will come with his third different team but this will be his first year in a Chevrolet.

Zach Veach made his IndyCar debut at Barber Motorsports Park just under two weeks ago substituting for J.R. Hildebrand at Ed Carpenter Racing but the Ohioan and Indy Lights race winner will drive the #40 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing at Indianapolis. Veach made three Freedom 100 starts at the Speedway and finished third in 2014.

Buddy Lazier returns with his own team Lazier Racing for the fifth consecutive year. Lazier has qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in three of his four attempts with his own team. Lazier is shaping up to be the oldest entrant at 49 years old and he could become the eighth driver to make 20 Indianapolis 500 starts joining A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock, George Snider and Gary Bettenhausen.

Those five additional Chevrolets leave us at 31 entries with two remaining both likely to be Chevrolets and both likely to come from Juncos Racing. Spencer Pigot drives for Ed Carpenter Racing in the #20 Chevrolet for the road and street course races but with Ed Carpenter in the #20 Chevrolet for the ovals and the teams not fielding an additional entry for this year's race, Pigot has had to look elsewhere and he is a leading candidate for one of the Juncos Racing entries.

The final seat it is believed to be down to either Sebastián Saavedra or James Davison. Saavedra and Davison both have not raced in IndyCar since the 2015 season. Saavedra has five Indianapolis 500 starts and all have come with a different team but his last four starts have been with Chevrolet teams. Davison has two Indianapolis 500 starts, his first in a Chevrolet and his second in a Honda.

Ryan Briscoe reportedly was a name Juncos Racing was interested in hiring but conflicts prevented that pairing from coming together. Alex Tagliani is another name floating around in contention for one of the Juncos Racing seats. Kyle Kaiser was in contention for a Juncos seat but the team has decided Kaiser will focus on the Indy Lights championship instead.

With the final seats on the verge of being filled, a few notable names who appear will be on the outside for this year's race are Townsend Bell, Matthew Brabham, Stefan Wilson, Jack Hawksworth, Dean Stoneman, Félix Serrallés, Katherine Legge, Tristan Vautier and Gustavo Yacamán.