In a welcome change from last year, the NTT IndyCar Series should have no problem filling its field of 33 drivers for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, which takes place on May 30.
At minimum, 34 entries will be in position to practice and attempt to qualify for the race, but only 31 are known to be done deals. The other three are considered formalities though, and await driver confirmations to join the 31.
In addition, there are three other potentials with varying odds on pushing the entry list out to as many as 37. Based on what is likely to happen among the expected and potentials, 35-36 qualifiers are currently projected to vie for the 33 spots.
Looking at the roster of drivers who are known to be in the mix for the Indy 500 vacancies, Oliver Askew, James Davison, Santino Ferrucci, JR Hildebrand, Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, and Cody Ware are said to be the most solid contenders.
Confirmed entries (31)
A.J. Foyt Racing, Chevy, (3): Sebastien Bourdais, Dalton Kellett, Charlie Kimball
Like most teams in the series, the Foyt family have their full-time drivers locked in and an extra car in place for the Indy 500. But unlike the majority, RACER has learned the Foyt team is considering the addition of a second Indy-only entry, which would push the Chevy-powered program out to four cars if it comes to fruition. Who would be the top contender to drive a fourth car for the four-time Indy winner? Hard to say at this point, but with the Bowtie involved and some drivers on the list carrying longstanding ties to Honda, the pool of options gets smaller.
Andretti Autosport, Honda (5): Marco Andretti, Colton Herta, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi.
The race to land one of the two most coveted Indy 500 seats has been an interesting theme to follow behind the scenes. Depending on the day, almost every one of the known candidates could be named as a sure thing, and recently, Oliver Askew has been the driver spoken of most frequently as the one to complete the sextet. We know Andretti will run six cars, so until we reach a point where a driver they’re interested in can hit the required budget number, it’s all speculation.
Arrow McLaren SP, Chevy (3): Juan Pablo Montoya, Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist
The rising team has a two-time Indy winner to assist its young guns and there’s no known fourth car in the works. The only question is whether AMSP might roll Montoya into the program early with a car for the May 15 Indy road course race, which has no IMSA or WEC conflicts for the Colombian.
Carlin Racing, Chevy (1): Max Chilton
With its impressive pace on the ovals last year, Carlin would seem like a perfect outfit to run a second car for a funded driver, but the British team tells RACER it is only planning to run one.
Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda (4): Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Tony Kanaan, Alex Palou
CGR is set at four with full-time newcomer Alex Palou and the returning Tony Kanaan on its Indy roster.
Dale Coyne Racing, Honda (2): Pietro Fittipaldi, Ed Jones
DCR with Vasser Sullivan has its standout performer from the 2017 Indy 500 in Jones returning for the year, and another returnee in Fittipaldi on the books for the race. The team says that at the moment, its third car remains vacant, but DCR Indy veteran James Davison is often mentioned as the driver with a high probability of contesting his fifth Indy 500 with the team since 2015.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Chevy (1): TBD
Dennis Reinbold tells RACER his team is likely to downsize and run a single entry after fielding a pair of cars in recent years without a lot of success. He says one is guaranteed, and there’s still a chance DRR could run two, but he’s also fond of the idea of running one and focusing all the team’s energy on a single driver and finding the improvements needed to be competitive. Although unconfirmed, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sage Karam back with DRR for the sixth time at Indy.
Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevy (3): Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, Rinus VeeKay
The perennial contenders are set at three cars.
Meyer Shank Racing, Honda (2): Helio Castroneves, Jack Harvey
MSR is making its first major expansion with the inclusion of three-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves as part of a six-race package which includes the Speedway.
Paretta Autosport, Chevy (1): Simona De Silvestro
Beth Paretta is in with a single entry for the Swiss driver, who will be present at the Brickyard for the first time since 2015.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda (2): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
In a recent update from team co-owner Bobby Rahal, its partner for last year’s third entry, Citrone/Buhl Autosport, is unlikely to return with RLL, but a third car is still planned for the defending Indy 500 winners. Of all the names mentioned as possibilities for the car, former DCR driver Santino Ferrucci is said to be a leading option.
Team Penske, Chevy (4): Scott McLaughlin Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
Penske is set with its four full-timers and its presence with a fifth in support of Paretta Autosport and De Silvestro.
Possible/expected entries (6):
A.J. Foyt Racing, Chevy, (1)
Andretti Autosport, Honda (1)
Dale Coyne Racing, Honda (1)
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Chevy (1)
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda (1)
Top Gun Racing, TBD (1): RC Enerson
The team says it has acquired two new cars and plans to take part in the event with rapid Floridian RC Enerson. No engine partner has been announced, but RACER understands Honda has all of its motors assigned for the 500, and TGR is not on the list.