April 19, 2012 | By Paul Kelly
Three Winners, Series Champions In 96th Indianapolis 500 Field
Three past winners and three IZOD IndyCar Series champions are among the drivers named to the 34 entries filed for the 2012 Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
All drivers will compete in the new Dallara chassis that debuted at the start of this IZOD IndyCar Series season. The Indianapolis 500 will be the first oval race for the new car.
Engine competition returns to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for the first time since 2005. Chevrolet and Honda each will power 14 entries, with Lotus powering six. The popular, distinctive sound of turbocharged engines also returns to the “500” for the first time since 1996.
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009) leads the list of past winners, which also includes Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010) and Scott Dixon (2008). Castroneves is trying to become just the fourth four-time winner in the illustrious history of the race, joining A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Franchitti will attempt to become just the 10th driver to earn at least three Indianapolis 500 victories.
IZOD IndyCar Series champions assigned to cars include Dixon (2003, 2008), Franchitti (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) and KV Racing Technology w/SH’s Tony Kanaan (2004). Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais also aims to make his first Indianapolis 500 start since 2005.
Thirty drivers have been named to the 34 entries filed this year, which will breed competition for the 33 starting spots during Pole Day qualifying Saturday, May 19 and Bump Day qualifying Sunday, May 20.
The 2012 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at noon (ET) Sunday, May 27 and will be broadcast live by ESPN on ABC, the IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM 94. Opening Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 12, which also will feature the Celebration of Automobiles.
There is outstanding depth and quality in this year’s field. Besides three past race winners and three IZOD IndyCar Series champions, 15 of the 30 drivers named to entries have won at least one race in either IZOD IndyCar Series or Champ Car World Series/CART competition.
A strong crop of seven rookies includes the most experienced Formula One driver in history, Rubens Barrichello, and two past Firestone Indy Lights champions, Wade Cunningham and Josef Newgarden. Other rookies assigned to cars are reigning two-time USAC National Drivers Champion Bryan Clauson, James Jakes, Katherine Legge and 2010 American Le Mans Series champion Simon Pagenaud.
Plenty of young talent that recently advanced through the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system also was assigned to cars, including three Firestone Indy Lights champions – Cunningham (2005), 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand (2009) and Newgarden (2011). Other recent Firestone Indy Lights graduates on the entry list include Marco Andretti, Ana Beatriz, Ed Carpenter, Clauson, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal and Sebastian Saavedra.
Three women were among the drivers named to entries: 2010 Chase Rookie of the Year Simona De Silvestro, Beatriz and Legge.
Andretti Autosport is involved in five entries, more than any other team. Andretti Autosport is fielding cars for Andretti, Beatriz, Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Andretti Autosport/AFS Racing has entered a car for Saavedra.
Former race winners (3): Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010), Scott Dixon (2008).
Former pole winners (4): Helio Castroneves (2003, 2007, 2009, 2010), Tony Kanaan (2005), Scott Dixon (2008), Alex Tagliani (2011).
Rookies (7): Rubens Barrichello, Bryan Clauson, Wade Cunningham, James Jakes, Katherine Legge, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud.
Youngest: Josef Newgarden, 21.
Oldest: Rubens Barrichello, 39. (Barrichello turns 40 on May 23, four days before Race Day.)
Most previous starts: Helio Castroneves, 11.