INDIANAPOLIS - Despite the surprise emergence of owner-driver Ed Carpenter as the polesitter for today's Indianapolis 500, there's no mistaking the big horses in the race. All five Andretti Autosport cars are in the first three rows of the 33-car grid along with three Team Penske cars. Carpenter, who topped them all on Pole Day at 228.762 miles per hour, is the outlier.
At the same time, Carpenter is one of a group of five American drivers in the top 10 spots in the field. The others trying to become the first U.S. driver to win since Sam Hornish in 2006 include Marco Andretti (third), A.J. Allmendinger (fifth), Ryan Hunter-Reay (seventh) and Panther Racing's J.R. Hildebrand (10th), who was leading two years ago when he crashed in the final turn.
The Andretti team has looked powerful all month with Carlos Munoz (second), Andretti, who was nipped at the wire when Hornish won, E.J. Viso (fourth), reigning IndyCar Series champion Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe (ninth), this year's points leader and winner of two out of four events. Team Penske includes Allmendinger, Will Power (sixth) and three-time former Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves (eighth).
Three other former champs are in the field, including 2008 winner Scott Dixon (16th), three-time winner Dario Franchitti (17th) and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier (32nd). Danica Patrick has moved to NASCAR, but the field includes four female drivers led by Simona de Silvestro (24th).
"Andretti Autosport has the benefit of five cars running around here in practice,'' Hildebrand said. "Does that necessarily make them faster? No, but it gives them the ability to try a lot more stuff.
"We are going to win the Indy 500 at some point, and I think we've got as legitimate a shot at that as anybody does this year. A lot of things have to come together, but I'm positive I can win given the right set of circumstances.''