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Indy 500 Lineup with 40 Cars
Sarah Fisher 2009 Qualifying Day - by Burzy
Sarah Fisher 2009 Qualifying Day - by Burzy
April 24th 2010 - Indy 500 Entries Announced As Excitement Builds

By: Mark W. Theisen


This past winter/off-season for the Indy Racing League was marked by significant news that featured a new title sponsor, IZOD; a new series President; Randy Barnard, new qualifying procedures not only for the regular series’ races but the Indianapolis 500 as well; and new team and driver lineups that all pointed for an exciting 2010 racing season culminating with the announcement yesterday, that for the second year in a row 40 cars have been entered for the premier event of the year, The Indianapolis 500.

The 94th running of the 500 on May 30th will feature an abbreviated month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as teams will have less time to practice and prepare for the race than ever before. What was once a full month of practice and four days of qualifying for the 500 has been amended and tweaked over the years in many varied ways and this year’s schedule is no exception!

Eight days of practice and then two exciting and stressful days of qualifications for this year’s race will also include a separate 9 car “shoot-out” for the coveted pole starting position for the 500 that will begin at 4:30 on Pole-Day, Saturday May 22nd.

The new two-day qualifying format will feature 24 of the 33 staring berths up for grabs on the first day. Then at 4:30 the top nine qualifying cars of the day will go for the pole in a shoot-out style with the winner claiming not only the top starting berth in the race but a prize package nearly double that of any previous pole-winner for the 500. Conceivably the car that was fastest all day long could wind up staring ninth in the race by a poor showing in the shoot-out.

Throwing the proverbial wrench in the entire plan is the notorious Indiana May weather. Time and time again qualifying has been affected by rain and should that happen in an abbreviated schedule year, it will, indeed be interesting to see how it is than handled.

The second day of qualifying will feature the final 9 starting positions being filled and then the beginning of the “bumping” procedure in which the slowest qualifying car is ousted from the line-up by the faster car.

With 40 cars entered and already 34 drivers announced and entered for those cars it is certain that the end of the second day of qualifying will produce the agony and ecstasy that was a highlight of 500 qualifying for many years.

Leading the entry list is the powerful Penske Racing Team. Growing to three full-time IZOD IndyCar series entries this season with Will Power joining three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe the organization that boasts (15) 500 wins and pole positions is the odds on favorite for one of the three to win the race again. Power sits atop the IZOD IndyCar series point standings after winning the first two races of the 2010 season and Castroneves is the defending 500 mile race champion and would like to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of the 94 year old classic.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing with two former 500 winners, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti entered in their cars is right behind Penske Racing as favorites to challenge for the race.

Andretti Autosports will have five cars entered in the 500: Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and John Andretti in a team entry that is co-entered along with Richard Petty Motorsports. Dan Wheldon gave Andretti Autosports their only 500 win in 2005 and despite a less than stellar 2009 season these five drivers also loom as threats to win the race.

Because 6 cars are entered without an assigned driver at this time it means that there will be the usual last minute ride swapping and buying as in the past but with the unusually short period to practice and prepare this aspect might be reduced and the abbreviated schedule might play havoc on those less experienced on the 2 and one-half mile track to make the race.

In years past a car or driver that has problems early in the month could actually come back and make the race because there was time to rebuild a race car and practice again, but this year that luxury is out the window. 38 of the entries have back-up cars available but the lack of time to practice and setup becomes a very viable factor in making the race or not this year.

The 500 could see four and perhaps five female drivers in the race for the first time. Joining Patrick, the first female driver to lead the 500, will be; Sarah Fisher, driving a car she co-owns with her husband; Milka Duno and rookie Simona De Silvestro. These four ladies have cars already assigned and entered for them. A fifth, Ana Beatriz, who drove in the season opening IZOD race in Brazil is in negotiations with a team to enter her in the race and should that occur and she make the race, it could indeed be a record breaking year.

Castroneves is the only multi-500 winner entered in the race. Weldon, Dixon and Franchitti, who is also the defending series champion are the other former 500 winners entered. Missing on the entry list are former 500 winners Buddy Lazier and Buddy Rice. This talented duo with miles and miles of experience at Indy could not put together deals to make this year’s race.

5 other rookies join DeSilvestro in trying to make the field and they are; Bertrand Baguette, Jay Howard, Mario Romancini, Sebastian Saavedra and Takumo Sato.

Paul Tracy, Davey Hamilton and Bruno Junqueira also are entered, each of which has enjoyed success at Indy albeit not being able to win the race.

The shortened scheduled, the rookies and the veterans and all the variables make for an exiting 2010 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that begins with practice on Saturday May 15 and culminates with the green flag to start the 94th running of the 500 on Sunday May 30th.

Watch Bronco's Pit Stop for continuous reports from the track all month long. Tickets still remain for the race.