On Sunday, the grid will take the order to start their engines and begin their charge to claim the 98th Indy 500 and with it a good foothold in the Verizon IndyCar standings going into the summer.
The second visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year – after a slightly rough GP of Indy – will also mark the first time the field has hit the ovals this year after four street courses.
It also marks the first time the new double points system will be used. Unlike F1, this double points system seems to have been welcomed by the fans – the points system only affects the 500 milers like Indy as well as Pocono and Fontana.
That means that pole sitter Ed Carpenter, in what is his first start this season – he shares the car with Mike Conway – could jump up to as high fifth in the standings with a victory on the speedway and he’ll certainly be hoping to convert pole into a victory.
Although the man to watch has to be Target Chip Ganassi’s Tony Kanaan, starting a relatively poor 16th place – midway in the 33 car field – he will be hoping to make up the places by picking off those ahead of him. However, with Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya starting in the top ten the wish of claiming a second consecutive victory will take some doing.
This year yet again there is a diverse number of rookies in the pack, including season regulars Jack Hawksworth, Carlos Huertas and Mikhail Aleshin – who all qualified in respectable positions and will be hoping that a stroke of luck can see them making something out of nothing.
That said, one rookie will be hoping to complete a historic double when he competes at Indy before heading off the NASCAR race at Charlotte, that man is Kurt Busch and starting on the outside of the fourth row could see him putting a cat amongst the pigeons if he gets a good run into turn one.
Indeed rookies should be treated with respect, last year’s rookie of the race – Carlos Munoz – finished in second place and pretty secure in it. This year the Andretti Autosport driver will be hoping his third row start can springboard him into going one better and taking a victory at only his second time of asking. It would also provide him with a bump start to his campaign – a third place in Long Beach is the best of a bunch that includes one seventh place finish and results of 17th, 23rd and 24th.
Another driver needing to give his season a solid kick to get going is Graham Rahal, a highest finish of 13th at Long Beach is all that can be smiled about in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan camp as the son of the team boss hopes to get his season going at the first oval race of 2014.
That can also be said about third generation racer Marco Andretti, he has carried on the fabled “Andretti Curse” that has afflicted the clan since Mario’s win in 1969. The curse has spread from Mario to son Michael and grandson Marco, but starting on the outside of the second row could see the youngest Andretti pulling something out of the bag.
Www.TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk will be providing full coverage of the Indy 500 with live tweeting on @TheCheckerFlag as well as a full race report on the site after the flag falls on the 98th race.